All there is left to do is to pray for rain - The impact of drought in Namibia

تم النشر: 26 أبريل 2016 10:00 CET

By Thea Rabe / Norwegian Red Cross

In the middle of a dried-out field, in the region of Oshikoto in northern Namibia, Saalmi Sheya is standing with her shovel in the white soil, trying relentlessly to make her crops grow.

“Harvesting season is next month. But this year, I haven’t received enough rains on my field for anything to grow, so I won’t be harvesting anything,” Saalmi says. “But who knows, I may be lucky with the seeds I am planting now.”  

Saalmi is 35 years old,  and lives with her three-year-old daughter Maria. She planted her first crops in November, but they failed due to lack of rain. She tried to plant again in January, but her second attempt was not successful. Now, she says she has no other option but to try for a third time.

Currently, Namibia - along with most of southern Africa - is experiencing severe drought. The country is having its worst crop performance in 80 years, and more than 550,000 Namibians are affected.  Seventy per cent of the people in Namibia are reliant on agriculture for their livelihoods, including Saalmi and her daughter Maria. A crop assessment, expected to be carried out by the government and its partners in the coming months, will also help shed additional light on the food insecurity situation at the household level.

Saalmi is trying to grow pearl millets, locally known as the mahangu. She will use the seeds from the plant to make porridge, but she knows that there is little chance of making something grow this late in the season. The little family of two will have no harvest to provide them with food.

In December, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an Emergency Appeal for 954,827 Swiss francs to help meet the food security needs of 11,500 people affected by the drought, but it is severely underfunded with only 15 per cent of the total being donated.  The Namibia Red Cross Society has also launched a three month campaign. Entitled  “Namibian Helping Namibians”, the campaign aims to raise funds from citizens as well as the private sector to support drought-related activities.

The region where Saalmi lives is included in the Emergency Appeal, and the Namibia Red Cross had planned drought relief interventions in the area. But this vital work cannot go ahead because of the lack of funding.  

Every day Saalmi goes out to the field at seven in the morning. She works in the field until the sun is at its highest. Then she is tired, and she has to go into her tin shack house, next to the field, and take care of her daughter.

Saalmi knows that it is probably too late for the seeds she is planting to grow, but she can’t stop trying, she says.

“What else will I do? If I keep on trying, I might be lucky. It might rain enough this month. In the meantime, all I can do is to pray to God for it to happen.”