Losing crops and livestock to extensive drought in Namibia

Published: 3 May 2016 9:00 CET

By: Thea Rabe, Norwegian Red Cross

In the rural village of Sikondo, in the Namibian region of Kavango, people’s livelihoods have depended on their livestock for centuries. This year, the village is strongly hit by drought, and the animals are dying.

“Traditionally we have always lived off our livestock. What has happened now, with the loss of so many animals, is really sad and worrying,” says Salomon Hainga.

Salomon is Sikondo’s village leader, and has lived in the little northern settlement his entire life. For the past three years, climate-related events such as flooding and drought have made the people of Sikondo food insecure. They have almost nothing to eat, as crops are failing, and livestock are dying.

“We used to get rains heavily for six months, that was the raining season,” Sikondo explains. “But now, and for the past three years, the rain is totally unreliable. This year the rains came all too late, and it is too little. The crops are failing, and there is not enough grass on the fields for the livestock to eat.”

The village experienced heavy flooding in 2013, and now it is currently severely affected by the drought. Most of the people of the village have lost at least one of their livestock over the past year. It is due to the drought, Salomon explains. “The people of Sikondo have always based their income and harvest on having livestock. It is our everything.

“When the rain is not coming, there is not enough grass on the fields for the cows to eat, making them very vulnerable. Mostly, our cows have died trying to drink water from the river. They get stuck in the mud close to the water. Because of their weak legs and lack of energy, they fall in the mud and die,” the village leader adds.

Namibia, along with most of southern Africa, is currently experiencing severe drought. The country is having its worst crop performance in 80 years, and more than 550,000 Namibians are affected. A crop assessment, expected to be carried out by the government and its partners in the coming months, will help shed additional light on the food insecurity situation at the household level.The Namibian Red Cross is supporting vulnerable groups in three regions with food distributions, and rehabilitating water wells.

In December 2015, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an Emergency Appeal of 950,205 Swiss francs to meet the food security needs of 11,500 people affected by the drought in Namibia. However, the Appeal has only been funded 15 per cent, which means that only 1,200 people are being supported with drought relief by the Red Cross. 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.

“I have personally lost a lot of livestock - cattle, chickens and donkeys. But so have most of the people in the village. We are in a situation where we need outside help to get by,” Salomon says.

“It is all due to the changing climate. We don’t want to ask for help, but right now, we have to beg for the government and other organizations to help us,” the village leader adds.