Food outlook remains bleak

The food security situation continues to weaken as many households are reported to have depleted last season’s poor harvest and are now dependent on the market and the government’s drought relief food programme.
The latest Agricultural Inputs and Household Food Security Monitoring Assessment Report for household food security from the National Early Warming and Food Information System, released this week, notes a considerable delay in the 2015/2016 agricultural season and in the onset of the rainfall season. Only by late December, where most parts of the northern areas reported to have received moderate to good showers.
The communal crop producing regions are also witnessing a considerable delay in the start of the 2015/2016 rainfall season which normally starts from mid October. At the time of the assessment in November, these regions had not yet received rainfall to start cultivation work.
Regional Councils with the assistance of village headmen are advised to continue monitoring the situation and provide the drought relief foods to households facing food shortages in their respective areas.
Some households reported that drought relief only targeted those households considered to be vulnerable and in desperate need of food assistance with no ongoing cultivation activities being noted, except for the Zambezi where some fields have been planted.
All the regions were still dry and farmers were in full swing repairing their fences and preparing crop fields for planting. At the time of the assessment most of the regions havdnot yet received productive rainfall to trigger the cultivation activities.
Based on these findings, the agriculture ministry is considering strategies for possible intervention and future assistance to improve agricultural production.
The Directorate of Extension in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is advising farmers to take the necessary precautions by avoiding delayed cultivation and take advantage of the first rainfall and to use early maturing crop varieties to compensate for the late planting season.
Due to the possibility of below normal rainfall conditions during January, February and March in the communal crop producing areas, timely provision of sufficient basic inputs, especially seeds (free and subsidy), has been arranged at Agricultural Development Centres. Farmers can obtain seeds from these centres with own resources. However, the ministry pointed out that there is limited stock of free seeds available and that subsidised seeds and fertiliser are prioritised.
This already begun with N$20 million that was approved by the ministry in the last week of 2015 for a voucher procurement system to aid farmers to source subsidied farming inputs.
Part of the subsidy scheme will allow dry land crop farmers south of the Veterinary Cordon Fence, namely Omaheke Region, Otjozondupa Region and the southern part of the Oshikoto Region, to purchase maize, pearl millet, bean and groundnut seeds and fertilizers from registered suppliers within the country
The Agro Marketing Trade Agency (AMTA) will implement this scheme after the agency had earlier carried out a similar pilot project to test the viability and to identify the administrative hurdles.
The poor condition of draught livestock for ploughing has led the Directorate of Agriculture Production, Extension, and Engineering Services (DAPEES) to ensure the availability of government tractors, and also to encourage private tractor owners to participate in the government’s ploughing subsidy services to assist farmers to plough their crop fields.
The early warning assessment further noted that grazing continues to deteriorate in various parts of the country as drought conditions strengthen. Nevertheless, with better rainfall conditions expected during the January and February period, grazing is expected to improve.