Namibia will this afternoon add another entry to its list of firsts for African achievements when local and world-renowned experts adopt the Windhoek Declaration on Drought Resilience in Africa.
Officially opening the high-level African Drought Conference in Windhoek yesterday morning, President Hage Geingob paid tribute to the immense achievement of drafting a white paper after five days of intense debates to hammer out the details of yet another historic document for Africa, titled the Strategic Framework for Drought Management and Enhancing Resilience to Drought Events in Africa.
“We are cognizant of the fact that the majority of African countries do not have drought policies. Droughts cannot be wished away, neither can we engage in a war with mother nature,” the president said when expressing his sincere hope the drought document will serve the needs of not just Namibia but the entire African continent.
“We in Namibia are faced with livestock starvation, crops wilting, families going hungry, not to mention the looming water crisis that is exacerbating the situation. This situation places responsibilities and obligations on all of us – civil society, the private sector, old and young.
“Government needs to raise N$659 million for its drought relief programme in order to continue distributing food aid to the needy and vulnerable,” he added.
Geingob said the effects of drought can bring a feeling of hopelessness among people, but noted that through this conference Africans have the opportunity to provide a vision that will bring hope “that we can overcome the scourge of drought”.
“Over 25 percent of our population is estimated as being food insecure and we already had to declare a national drought emergency.”
He urged all Namibians to come on board in the country’s constant battle with land degradation and deforestation. “Let us all work together in the spirit of Harambee. We have already declared war on poverty and now we have declared war on drought. Drought is one of nature’s most devastating phenomena and threatens the very livelihood of our people, both in our immediate and future existence,” he noted.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, on behalf of Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, expressed concern about government having to supply 895 839 people – up from 415 900 in 2014/15 – with drought aid food relief until March 2017 due to the consequences of drought. This will cost an additional N$600 million. She warned that drought affects key industries, small-scale farmers, rural communities and urban dwellers alike. Africa has therefore to develop coping drought mechanisms if Africa Agenda 2063 is to be realised.
“Given Namibia’s fragile, arid and semi-arid environment, droughts are becoming a regular occurrence in our country and are set to become more frequent and severe as climate change becomes more intense.”
In the year 2014/15, the government had to feed over 413 900 people, in 2015/16, 556 447 people while in 2016/17, 595 839 will have to be fed up to March 2017.
“March is our cut-off point, as should we in the coming season receive rain by that time people will be able to harvest. Livestock is one of the important economic activities in Namibia. However, due to drought, animal loss is on the increase thus affecting animal producers both in communal and commercial farming,” she said.
Crop failures and livestock deaths are leading directly to shortages of, and increasing prices for, basic commodities. Some food prices have increased at double digits since March this year. In addition, reduced farming income is unfortunately providing a strong incentive for people to move to urban settlements in search of greener pastures, which puts pressure on services in urban centres, such as water and energy provision.
Namibia now faces a critical scarcity in water supply, which threatens both industrial use and human consumption and undermines efforts to improve sanitation conditions. This situation is likely to worsen as climate change continues to hold.
If no mitigation measures are taken, those phenomena can undermine Namibia’s development agenda as articulated in Vision 2030, the NDPs and the Harambee Prosperity Plan, the latter aimed at fast-tracking the goal of poverty eradication.
About 23 million people in 10 sub-Saharan countries require immediate humanitarian aid to cope with the effects of drought.
These countries include Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which are all members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has 15 member states.
With 10 member states in dire need of assistance, SADC has now appealed internationally for US$2,4 billion to support efforts to bring relief to drought-affected communities. The drought has caused crop failure and poor harvests, with about a nine million tonnes’ production shortfall in the region.
According to the SADC Regional Humanitarian Appeal launched in June this year, approximately 640 000 livestock died as a result of the drought in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe due to lack of grazing, lack of water and disease outbreaks.