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Namibia: Desperate Farmers Let Livestock Graze On Dumpsites

Desperate farmers who are unable to afford feed, particularly those who live on the outskirts of towns in northern Namibia, are now depending on dumpsites.

Farmers from the villages have started to take their livestock to the nearest dumpsites to feed them cardboards and any other materials to prevent the animals from succumbing to the drought.

Some communal farmers have gone to the extent of sharing their rations of mealie meal with their goats.

If provisional feeding is not made available, livestock is left to feed on deadly substances such as plastic bags.

New Era caught up with 57-year-old farmer Leo Tegelela, who hails from Ongali, north-west of Oshikuku.

He said he travels daily to the nearest towns such as Oshikuku and Oshakati to collect what boxes he can get, which he uses to feed the goats and a few cattle.

“As you can see, the area is dry. There is no grazing, hence we have resorted to the dumpsite,” said Tegelela.

Shimanda Timoteus from Othingo said he takes his cattle to Oshakati to feed them on dumpsites, three times a week.

“I am aware of the dangers, and the substances the cattle might eat. But there is nothing I can do, then am praying that nothing happens to them,” he added.

Timoteus stressed that they have been waiting for the government to start with the feeding programme, but no solution is in sight yet.

Saima Ndilula from Othika said she shares whatever can be eaten with her livestock to save them. “I’m taking from my food in order to feed the small goats. We have a big problem, and it will get worse if we don’t receive enough rain this year again,” she lamented.

Ndilula added that giving mealie meal to the goats has become a common practice among farmers in the area, as it is relatively cheap, compared to buying fodder, which is extremely expensive for communal farmers.

“Mealie meal only costs N$100 for 5kg, which is cheap. Now, we are spending a lot since we have one bag for the goats and another one for us humans. But that is cheaper compared to a bale of fodder, which costs N$950. “We collect the cardboard boxes to supplement the animal fodder we would have bought,” said Alma Shikuwa from Elim.

She noted that the cardboard boxes are usually reserved for cattle, while papers, which are lighter, are reserved for smaller livestock such as goats. Iyambo Johannes, who lives just outside Ongwediva, said his livestock also depend on dumpsites.

“My cattle go to town each and every day in search of papers and boxes, although it is illegal,” he added.

Many farmers are starting to lose hope because their animals are not in a good condition to fetch high prices at the markets.

They say some commercial farmers are taking advantage of the situation by buying goats from the struggling farmers at low prices, and taking these to their farms, where they are fed and later sold for high profits.

In addition to the non-existent grazing, farmers said their livestock also do not have access to water.

Livestock are either given water from their home taps – which in the end increases their water bills – or the farmers escort their livestock to the water canal.

Meanwhile, more than 30mm of rainfall was measured in some areas of Ohangwena on Wednesday night.

Rainfall has been sporadic in the northern regions during the rainy season, and this had left farmers hopeless as they were afraid of another dry spell and a crippling drought.

Okongo constituency councillor Libeus Efraim Shipindo said the rain brings hope to farmers who prayed hard and delayed ploughing their fields this year.

“Once it rains between September and October, it indicates that we will be receiving good rainfall, and thus has brought relief to many farmers”.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Anna Shiweda last Tuesday said the government has officially declared a state of drought in Namibia.

Measures are, therefore, being put into motion to initiate a comprehensive drought relief programme aimed at assisting the vulnerable and affected communities residing in all 14 regions of the country.

The deputy minister delivered these remarks during the third ordinary meeting of the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) council of ministers held in Luanda, Angola.

Meanwhile, Omusati Regional Council spokesperson Simion Kandjala said so far, 132 755 people have registered for the drought relief programme.