Hopelessness And Hunger In Omungunda

07 Nov 2015 15:20pm
By Peter Muronga

OPUWO, 07 NOV (NAMPA) – The hopelessness in Jakurupa Mbanguha’s voice is palpable as he stares out at his barren surroundings at Omungunda.
“When your cattle die you feel like committing suicide. It’s like losing a person because we depend so much on them,” he says.
The 36-year-old Mbanguha has lost around 100 heads of cattle since the beginning of the year due to the drought conditions in the Kunene Region where his village is situated, some 100 kilometres west of Opuwo.
The first thing that strikes you when you arrive in the area is the intense heat. With temperatures hovering near 40 degrees Celsius common and very little rain since 2010, it’s no wonder there is very little vegetation to be seen in this area.
In some parts of the village, it is difficult to find even a single tree for shelter during the day.
Another thing that draws your attention is the sight of emaciated, weak cattle attempting to find grazing where in reality there is none. Weakened by the lack of food they attempt to find something to eat on the dry plains and even go as far as the mountains in the area.
Speaking to Nampa on Tuesday during a media tour of the area organised by the Namibia Red Cross Society, Mbanguha says he has invested a lot of money to buy animal feed and medicine for his cattle, but he is not making a profit from them since their condition has deteriorated due to the drought.
He has been depending on the cattle to make a living since he was young, but since 2010 his prospects have been bleak.
His problem is the same predicament faced by many others at the village. To make matters word, the villagers cannot even eat the meat of the animals that die as they say it is inedible.
“The carcasses are all over the place. Even the dogs can't eat the meat anymore,” the headman of the village, Josef Mbanguha, said.
Mbanguha said that they moved from their home village of Etanga which is about 70 kilometres away from Omungunda in search of grazing, but this has done little to solve their problems.
“We cannot move somewhere else because there is conflict everywhere. People don't want us to graze our animals in their areas anymore. There are even cases of people shooting each other after they took their animals to Sesfontein for grazing purposes from Etanga,” said the headman.
“Cattle are dying like flies. At least the goats can resist the drought because they can adapt to dry conditions,” he said.
The headman also called for the government to speed up the distribution of drought relief aid, saying the maize meal and cooking oil are distributed every two months but this is not sufficient, especially for the children and elderly who depend on the aid.
With the drought and no expectations of rain to meet their hopes of cultivating land for survival soon, the villagers are starving.
The low rainfall in the Kunene Region has meant insufficient crop yields and limited water for people and livestock.
The little food the families do have is used sparingly since crop farming has also been severely affected by the drought.
Mariru Mbunguha, a daughter of the headman said she only has four cattle and would normally survive on crops, but this has become impossible.
She explained how she prepares only one meal a day so that the maize meal they receive from the Directorate of Disaster Risk Management in the Office of the Prime minister through the constituency office can last until the end of the month.
She asked that the government increase the maize meal they receive to at least four bags as at the moment they receive only one bag per person.
The mother of six children and four grandchildren also said she wishes Government could provide them with solar panels for the boreholes so that they do not have to spend as much money as they do on diesel.
The latest post-harvest crop assessment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry indicated that Namibia is experiencing its worst crop performance in eight years.
The assessment indicated that these extreme poor crop harvests affect all dry land crop-producing regions.