WINDHOEK, 20 MAY (NAMPA) - The Namibia National Farmers? Union (NNFU) has welcomed the declaration of a state of emergency on the current drought situation in the country by President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Friday, but said it was long overdue.
The NNFU Executive Director, Oloff Munjanu told Nampa on Monday the move by Pohamba clearly demonstrates the urgency and severity of the drought situation in Namibia, and how committed the government is towards assisting affected communities and to ensure no life is lost due to the drought.
?As much as we agree with Government?s efforts and are grateful, we are of the opinion that the process was slow and delayed and it should have been done long ago. Even the Kunene Region and Aminuis Constituency in the Omaheke Region which were severely affected already last year, did not receive their assistance in time,? he stressed.
While Namibia is a drought-stricken country, Munjanu advised that there should be an annual budget which goes to a Drought Fund as provided for by the National Drought Policy and Strategy to which donors and farmers can contribute through a statutory agricultural levy administered by the Meat Board of Namibia.
To achieve that, the NNFU called for the speedy implementation of the National Drought Policy and Strategy, which was approved by Cabinet in May 1998.
The policy aims to shift responsibility for managing drought risk from Government to the farmer, with Government assistance only considered in the event of extreme or disaster droughts. It draws a clear distinction between food security interventions to meet needs resulting from drought, and those which are poverty-related.
Munjanu also called on Pohamba to remove the administration responsible for drought from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and set up an independent Board which should be governed through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry while other emergency agencies can remain with the OPM for now.
?We are of the opinion that drought, which is an ongoing natural phenomenon, should be treated separately and not be mixed with other natural disasters such as floods and should not be administered from the OPM.
Namibia is a drought-prone country and drought should be treated separately and with specific attention and funding, that?s why it has a policy. There is no food policy in place,? he stressed.
On the drought-relief programme spearheaded by the OPM, which distributes food to the poor countrywide, the union said the provision of food is not sustainable and it may target those who are not affected.
The NNFU further appealed to the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement to assist farmers on resettlement farms which have not been occupied by beneficiaries on a lease basis, for the drought period. The ministry should also speed up the rehabilitation of water infrastructure on resettlement farms.
The NNFU requested farmers to put in place drought-mitigating strategies on their farms and assist each other.
?Farmers should not illegally occupy resettlement farms, but instead follow the right procedures. They should also refrain from any fraud or scam activities and keep proof of every evidence or documents when selling animals for claim purpose,? according to Munjanu.
The NNFU also called on the Agribank to exempt loan beneficiaries from paying interest during the drought period.
?The NNFU is aware that some farmers do not want to sell their cattle because of the low prices and the inability to restock after the drought. But please fellow farmers, make your calculations thoroughly and take the best decision not to regret later,? he added.