Farmers decry govtís delay in declaring drought

This year's shortage of rain has potential to reduce the country's livestock population
This year's shortage of rain has potential to reduce the country's livestock population

MAUN: Farmers have slammed President Ian Khama for the delay in declaring 2015 a drought year.

A meeting of mainly farmers on Wednesday felt that since they have already started losing cattle to drought, they would have expected that by now the government would have declared a drought year. During the 2015 Letsema consultative forum held at Maun Lodge, attended by 200 delegates, the farmers expressed concern with the President’s non-public stance on the state of drought.

A farmer from Kgatleng, Joseph Setlhare complained that there has been low rainfall in his district since the beginning of the year. He said farmers are already struggling to find water for their cattle explaining that the Molatedi dam in South Africa which used to bail farmers out during times of need is unable to assist because of the shortage that side.

Tiroyaone Mmereki from the Southern Beef Farmers Association also complained about the shortage of rain saying their cattle are already malnourished and in poor shape.

In Ngamiland farmers complained about overstocking caused by lack of cattle markets and deteriorated grazing conditions for cattle. They said cattle mortality is imminent. The farmers said they fear for a repeat of 2013 in which more than 10,000 cattle perished to drought in Ngamiland. The fear is that this year the number may be higher.

Farmers called on government to subsidise maize, sorghum and cattle feeds as crops have wilted and crop season was therefore a total failure. According to official figures, the area planted this crop season has declined 69 percent to 127,800 hectares (315,800 acres) from a year earlier while the number of farmers has dropped 78 percent to 28,000.

As per the law the sitting President is the one with powers to officially declare a drought to make state resources available to farmers, school children, the poor and other disadvantaged groups at the mercy of a drought. They said they anticipate a serious drought but wondered why the President takes a long time to declare a drought since a country wide drought assessment was long concluded and recommendations done. Farmers however felt that Khama’s dilly-dallying to drought may come at a massive loss to farmers.

The Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Agriculture, Dr Mircus Chimbombi and Dr Letlhogile Modisa, the Director of Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) could not offer any answers to the farmers.

They, however, explained that the President is the one with the powers to declare a drought not the ministry. Modisa explained that the DVS was seeking ways of how cattle from Ngamiland could be reduced potentially being taken to slaughter at Francistown as Maun abattoir has limited capacity. He said they will ensure that farmers do not lose many cattle during the anticipated drought.

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