Namibia is dry and faces severe drought conditions – this is not newsflash, it is a major concern. Drought and depression combine to make a double punch of pain for this country. During this election year, we face an alarming situation not only in Windhoek where municipal officials are threatening water rationing and increased prices, but with food production on small farms across the country.
Agriculture is an important sector in our country and is key to providing food for most of our citizens especially those residing on subsistence farms. Many articles and reports say that the poor rainfall this year will have a severely negative impact on food production which will eventually lead to human suffering.
This year’s weather seems different from past years. I can still remember heavy rainfall for the past three years in Odibo when I used to stay there. Back then, we usually had enough rain to help us have a good harvest. Right now, the rainfall is simply not here. Several people are saying that there will be a poor harvest because some were unable to plant anything and others had to replant when seeds dried up in the ground and still others will harvest less crops because the drought conditions have killed off some parts of their fields.
Because we consume more than we produce locally, Namibia has always imported much of its food supply and commodities. While there are many successful and promising programs to increase food production and buy locally grown vegetables and fruits, this drought will make things worse. Some people will certainly face starvation or malnutrition and insufficient clean water to drink.
Those with money will try to buy staple foods from stores to feed their families. But, how many in this economic crisis have the money to buy enough of what they need? Extended families will try to help those in the villages, but how far will that go? Will there be enough food every single day until the next planting and harvesting season? Even if there is enough food for people, what about the livestock?
We cannot forget that for subsistence farmers, their livestock is their wealth. Having animals is not only for prestige, but also for milk, eggs or even for dinner! The drought means that there will not be enough grass for grazing.
An empty treasury, must not block planning and programs to alleviate the worst impact of this drought. Food aid that may arrive from friendly nations must not rot in warehouses or be distributed only to friends of those in charge. A fair and open system so that all in need get help, must but be put in place.
I can remember what my aunt told me about a previous drought. She told me how animals and people were struggling to survive. People were dying of hunger and thirst and various diseases brought on by the harsh conditions. Cattle, goats and other animals were dying like flies. As I look at the sky each and every morning, I feel like my aunt’s story might happen again.
My concern is about our children. The very young suffer heavily in deprived conditions. I know that one cannot be healthy, happy and productive with an empty tummy (as a saying goes).
Fellow Namibians, I know this low rainfall situation has not only affected the North but other places around the country. We need to speak out about how to support those in need. We need all community organizations, church groups and traditional as well as regional leaders to plan ways to deal with this problem locally.
Where do people who no longer have access to drinking water or food go? Are officials or church leaders visiting remote farms to check on the living conditions there, particularly those with our elders living alone? Are the huge military water tankers prepared to move into action? It may never come to this, but it might.
Too often we wait until things get to extreme crisis levels before we do anything about it. Let’s move now before it gets that bad. People should prepare to share the little they have with the needy and put thoughts together on how to mitigate this problem in Namibia.