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The Effects of Namibia’s Long Drought

Namibia is currently experiencing its worst drought in 30 years. This has affected grain and livestock production to the point that over a third of the population are now in need of urgent food support. This is the second year in a row that the region has not had enough rain to support its agriculture. The Kunene province in the northwest of Namibia has been worst hit, with the government declaring the drought a national disaster back in July.

The Namibian government have budgeted N$207 million to provide drought assistance including food aid, water provisions and livestock incentives. These livestock incentives provide a transport subsidy for farmers to move their livestock to areas of the country where grazing is still available.

Abattoirs in the region have been hit very hard. Fewer animals to slaughter has meant that profits have fallen and many contractors have lost employment as a result of the drought. The Namibian meat industry was already suffering prior to this as its key export market, the EU, have been experiencing major changes in consumer preferences.

Some abattoirs in Namibia are struggling to buy enough cattle as farmers are choosing to sell to South African feedlots where the use of growth stimulants and steroids is not banned, this means that the time taken to get cattle to market is much shorter. However, in Namibia, cattle have to be raised on the veld, with an average time of 18 months to get them to market.

Hunger and malnutrition are also major effects brought on and worsened by the drought. The country has sufficient maize stocks to last until December this year, and the government are negotiating to buy nutrient powder from South Africa, as well as fish and meat from local producers. However, even when the rains do come it is expected that the region will require assistance until March 2014, when the next harvests are expected.

Namibia has a per capita income of R47,000 which classifies it as an upper-middle income country. When combined with its relatively small population of 2.3 million people it can be difficult to attract donations from other countries. Unicef and the Red Cross have issued appeals for drought relief so it is hoped that the situation will eventually improve for the people of the Kunene province and the rest of Namibia sooner rather than later.