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February 19, 2009

Heavy rain threatens crop yields in Namibia

by Petronella Sibeene

The Namibian government’s pre-harvest crop assessment estimates promise good yields this year, although the heavy rains pouring in most crop producing areas might jeopardise the food security situation in the country.

A six-member delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has since the first week of February been carrying out crop assessments in Namibia’s crop producing regions of Caprivi, Kavango, Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshikoto.

Assessments have already been conducted in five regions. “So far, the harvest prospects are promising except for the heavy rains,” said Head of the Assessment Team, Matthew Ndjodhi.
Although Ndjodhi could not divulge more details on the assessment, indicating that his team still needed to bring together all the collected data that would give a clearer picture, he said the yields are likely to be better than last year.

While the rains at the onset seemed to benefit crop production, the heavy downpours in northern and north-eastern parts of the country have farmers and government worried.

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The predictions of continuing heavy rain come at a time when the flood-prone areas are on alert of possible floods.

Chief Agriculture Extension Officer in the Caprivi Region, Matthews Mushabati, said the region, which is regarded as the country’s “breadbasket”, anticipates a reduction in crop yields this year. He said the region depends on the Liambezi Lake for most of its maize harvest. However, the lake is flooded and crops are submerged, he said.

Other maize producing areas in the region such as the Ibbu, Mutikitila and Ngala also face the same predicament. The same problem is prevalent at Linyanti, Chinchimani, Kanono and Masokotwani. The region’s situation is worsened by dry spells in the eastern parts.

“Although I can not say it loud, we anticipate reduction in yields by 60 percent,” commented Mushabati.

While too much rain is as bad as too little, Namibia during the 2007/8 farming season faced its own challenges that resulted in poor harvests and hunger.

The previous agricultural season was delayed in most crop-producing regions, due to “inadequate and sporadic rainfall, coupled with prolonged dry spells in the north central regions during October to December 2007”.

That resulted in the Government setting aside millions of dollars to procure food aid for distribution to over 500 000 hungry Namibians.

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