PM announces N$300 million drought package

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WINDHOEK – Government has availed N$300 million to implement interim drought measures while the final drought assessment report is being concluded.

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila made the announcement yesterday during a staff meeting with senior officials within her office.

Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Deputy Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Christina //Hoebes were also in attendance during the meeting with several other top government officials from the OPM. “As you all know the country is drought-stricken, we have therefore agreed on interim measures that must be implemented over the next three to four months while we make the final assessment. We have availed in excess of N$300 million in order to execute a range of measures required to make sure assistance is provided to affected communities,” announced Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

She urged staff dealing with the process to ensure assistance is provided timeously without any disruptions, while calling on officials to ensure that food commodities and materials intended for the drought programme are well taken care of.

The Premier also spoke firmly against negligent officials who in the past left food to rot in warehouses instead of distributing it to the needy communities.

“This issue of warehouses being locked and food getting rotten should not happen and we should also not allow any losses through theft,” she said.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila also called on those conducting the final assessment to do it promptly so that if there is need for an adjustment, it is done in time to avoid disruptions.

During yesterday’s staff meeting, the Prime Minister also informed OPM staff members how responsibilities would be shared among herself, the Deputy Prime Minister and the deputy minister in the OPM.

She said the Deputy Prime Minister would deal with disaster risk management issues while the deputy minister would deal with administration and finance issues.

The National Early Warning and Food Information Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry earlier this year briefed Cabinet on the looming drought in the country.

The situation is so bad that water levels in all major dams in the country have been dropping at an alarming rate. Livestock and crop farmers have also held meetings to deliberate on possible drought strategies.

The Livestock Producers Association declared a year of drought in early February. Farmers have also in the past lamented government’s slow response to national disasters, with some now claiming that the money comes at a time when farmers have already lost livestock and crop fields.

As a result of the drought, government would be forced to import white maize very soon. Last year, the white maize harvest in Namibia was 73 000 tonnes while this year less than 33 000 tonnes is expected.

However, Namibia’s biggest supplier of white maize – South Africa – is also experiencing drought problems and reports coming from the neighbouring country are that its biggest producer would have to import 934 000 tonnes of white maize valued at N$1.6 billion.

New Era last month reported that as a result of the situation in South Africa, pressure is on Namibia because it cannot rely on imports from South Africa and expectations are that yellow maize will track import parity levels while white maize will be higher than import parity levels due to the lack of international origin.