Food reserves at satisfactory levels
Story by Albertina Nakale
WINDHOEK - With Namibia experiencing the worst drought of the past 14 years, government has assured the nation that there is still adequate grain stocks in its silos countrywide and will only import food once they are depleted.
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa gave the assurance yesterday in an interview with New Era saying government green scheme projects are very helpful, particularly with maize grains currently being distributed to drought-stricken communities throughout the country.
"The irrigation projects are helping us in particular with maize, which take to millers. What people are consuming now is directly from our own silos. Our money is now circulating in the country until we have depleted what we have in the silos then we start importing food," Mutorwa explained.
Meanwhile, the National Silo Coordinator in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Wilhelmina Handinge, revealed that so far the Prime Minister's Office has bought about 9 000 tonnes of maize and another 900 tonnes of mahangu for the drought food relief programme.
"Since November last year, the food that has been distributed to the marginalised communities, the San and Ovatue and Ovatjimba, is directly from government silos countrywide. Government has not yet imported food from other countries. The quantity we have is enough while the Disaster Risk Management Unit in the Prime Minister's Office is preparing to import. The stock in the silos might last up to November depending on the quantity distributed per household," Nandinge said.
She also reported that silos in Rundu are still full to capacity with new grains from the projects. “The old grains were taken out and given to millers. We are now busy with Katima and Tsandi where we are de-stocking and stocking," she said.
She also indicated that the four silos in Katima Mulilo have been expanded from the 6 000 tonnes of storage capacity to 7 400 tonnes, adding that, silos in Katima Mulilo are 45 percent full. "Kunene was badly affected by drought since November last year and the Prime Minister's Office procured 678 tonnes of mahangu from the silos to be distributed to Ovatue and San communities. Out of the 9 000 tonnes of maize that we had in stock, 2300 tonnes was also procured for the same purpose for the Kunene and Omaheke regions," she stressed.
According to her, her office received another order in April to sell the leftovers in the silos for drought food relief purposes. "We are currently giving out grains to the appointed millers. We are also packing mahangu for drought relief," she noted. Mahangu is packed from the Omuthiya and Okongo silos, while maize is from the Katima Mulilo, Rundu and Tsandi silos.
In addition, she said her office is also loading maize grains from green scheme projects in the Kavango Region. It is reported that about 11 000 tonnes of maize grains are still expected to be stocked in silos. These grains will come directly from the Shadikongoro, Ndonga Linena, Uvhungu-Vungu and Sikondo irrigation projects, as well as the Mashare commercial farm.
Handinge explained that people do not produce mahangu for marketing purposes, but for subsistence. "What people are selling to the silos is the surplus. While maize is mainly produced for the market by the green scheme projects," she said.