Poor short-rice harvest due to floods

16 May 2013 - Story by Albertina Nakale

WINDHOEK - The Kalimbeza national rice project has endured huge losses of its short rice variety due to heavy floods experienced in the Caprivi Region. This year’s floods also displaced thousands of people in the flood-prone region.

Venaune Hepute, the agricultural research technician in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry yesterday confirmed that although the floodwaters have receded, the Irga and Angola rice varieties were submerged by floods causing a poor rice harvest.

"'We only managed to harvest six hectares (ha) out of the 19 ha of the Irga variety that was planted. Only half a hectare was harvested out of the five hectares planted for Angola. It was a poor harvest of the short varieties (Irga and Angola). Floods severely affected the overall harvest," he explained.

He said the long rice variety, Supa, managed to survive the floods because of its tallness. Supa is the most preferred rice of the project, because it has the best aroma and taste and is also of a high quality compared to the Irga and Angola varieties.

"Supa survived on the whole 16 ha that was planted. We are currently harvesting Supa and the harvest is promising. So far 45 percent of the 16 ha planted has been harvested and we are still harvesting the remaining hectares," Hepute said.

He attributed the losses to early floods, saying: "When we started our planting season, we tried to plant early so we could harvest early before the floods, but [contrary to our expectations] the floods came early and our short variety could not manage to survive but our long variety survived."

Hepute said the rice project still has provisions to fight food insecurity apart from the fact that the country is hard hit by the current drought. The harvested rice is currently being sorted and soon the final product, which is white rice, will be ready.

Once the rice is ready, it will be available at the extension offices of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry countrywide at different prices, he said.

He also revealed that houses for workers currently being constructed at the rice project would be completed before the end of this year. The construction of the logistics area is said to be progressing well. The area would include offices and a warehouse. He also reported that elephants have not caused any havoc so far this year, unlike in the past.

Heavy rains and rising water levels in the Zambezi River catchment area caused flooding in the Caprivi, swamping houses, infrastructure and crop fields. A joint rapid assessment conducted by the Regional Disaster Risk Management technical team (of which the Red Cross forms a part) found that in February a total of 4 000 families (17 600 people), including 4 527 school children, were identified to be at risk of flooding.

By March 11 up to 2 500 families (11 000 people) were identified as most vulnerable in the floodplains of the Caprivi Region and had to be relocated to temporary camps. At that time the joint assessment team identified sanitation, the increased risk of waterborne diseases and shelter as the most pressing challenges in the camps.

The Regional Disaster Risk Management technical team responded to the immediate needs of the families living in the camps, through the provision of water and sanitation services, hygiene promotion, disease surveillance, emergency shelter materials and non-food items.