Harsh drought continues

31 Jan 2020

Despite good rainfall in the north-eastern parts of Namibia, it is a desperate time for Namibia because the country is still faced with one of its most severe droughts.

According to the agriculture ministry's report, grazing conditions have been deteriorating severely throughout the country and poor rainfall performance has worsened the situation. Consequently, many farmers have lost their livestock due to lack of grazing and water.

Thinus Pretorius, the chairperson of the Namibian Livestock Producers’ Organisation, says very little rain has been reported this season to the far north and south of the capital city, Windhoek.

“We need considerably more widespread rain. Because of the drought, the pressure on grazing has been immense. The roots of grazing species have been largely destroyed and much more rain is needed for the seeds that remained in the soil to germinate and grow,” he said.

According to Pretorius, while livestock numbers had been cut to the core, the genetics that remained on the farms were of top quality.

He explained that producers got rid of all the animals that had not performed optimally in the drought. “They only retained the best animals to build up herds after the drought is broken,” he added.

It is not only the volume of rain that matters but also when it falls. If little growth occurs after the early spring rain, even follow-up rain in January will not be enough to kick-start grass growth. However, if the rest of the growing season – February/March – gets rainfall of about 30% above average, veld in good condition can regain enough vigour to recover before autumn. In this case, soil fertility, which may have improved because of root dieback, will help to speed up growth.