Farmers pray for more rain as skies open up
Namibian livestock and crop farmers especially marked Monday evening as a sign of a new beginning when the skies went dark with overcast conditions and the first countrywide downpours started bringing relief to the drought-stricken country.
Jubilation rang out from all corners of Namibia as soft rains started penetrating the parched interior, which had been subjected to three years of bone-dry heat, causing more than 700 000 Namibians to become dependent on government drought food aid for survival.
Since Monday evening almost the entire Namibian interior received soft rains, which filled rain meters with an average of between seven and 35mm by Tuesday afternoon.
Namibians woke up yesterday morning to the pitter-patter of the first steady downpours of the new rainy season,. Even the deep south reported some 8mm of rain close to the border with South Africa.
Over most of the interior, the sky went tar-black and people outside had to run for cover, while umbrellas were hurriedly opened as the clouds spat out their beads of water, just as many were leaving work for home late on Monday afternoon.
More than 10mm were reported on average in Windhoek, 22mm at Dordabis, 27mm at Hosea Kutako International Airport, 5mm at Helmeringhausen and up to 22m in the areas north of Grootfontein, like Ondangwa and Oshakati.
The Maize Triangle – the bread basket of the country – once again received some rain and expectations are that the triangle will produce more than 43 000 tonnes of white maize come harvesting time next year.
Most weather forecasters in southern Africa predicted the gentle rains would be all but over by yesterday afternoon and that sunny skies are ahead for the next few days before the clouds build up again by next Tuesday for some overcast weather.
Small and medium scale crop farmers in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) New Era spoke to yesterday all blessed the first significant downpours, expressing their need for more rain as the planting season gets underway. They say consistent rains will once again ensure their livelihoods.
Some 4 100 farmers in the NCAs have registered for rip furrow services. Farmers have requested from one hectare up to 45 hectares each. The current charge is about N$600 per hectare from the private sector.
There are 27 private service providers for rip furrowing and nearly all of them have started land preparation by now.
Most tractor owners are clients of Kongalend Financial Services, while some are Agribank clients.
The interest in conservation agriculture (CA) is also extraordinarily high of late, partly because of the consecutive droughts and severe food insecurity situation.
Many farmers witnessed positive developments in CA fields during the 2014/2015 season, despite low and erratic rainfall and have since switched to CA.
Farmers who have already tested rip furrowing or hand-hoe basins, crop rotation and soil cover (either crop residue retention or green soil cover) are in the majority of cases planning to put their entire crop fields under CA.