Johanna Absalom | April 9, 2012
Subsistence farmers in northern Namibia are hoping for a better harvest this year, as they try to save crops threatened by heavy rainfall.
Getrud Aron, Namushingo Mateus and Hilma Asser are neighbours in Oshaandja village in Oshana region. They are hard at work trying to rescue crops from flood damage. The farmers planted in November and December. The heavy rainfall arrived in mid-January, and fields were quickly flooded.
This is the fourth year in a row that the village has been hit by heavy rains that flood farmers’ fields.
Mrs. Aron has lived in the village for almost 35 years. She says, “After a few years of poor harvests, we then thought of a way to improve the situation. We decided to save our crops by draining the water.” When she saw that this practice was working for her neighbours, she decided to follow suit.
Mr. Mateus explains that each household focuses on removing water from its own field. First, the farmers identify the flooded plots that have not been severely damaged. Then they use spades, hoes, wheelbarrows and shovels. They dig channels so that water can flow out of the fields into the open plain.
It is a difficult and labour-intensive task. The soil is heavy. According to Mr. Mateus, five or six people from a household work each day for eight hours. Sometimes neighbouring farmers help each other out.
In recent years, northern Namibia has received above average rainfall. Faced with this great challenge, farmers from Oshaandja village have taken it upon themselves to save their staple crops of sorghum and millet.
The farmers say that their initiative has been helpful. Drained fields are in much better condition that those which are untouched. Mr. Mateus says, “On the parts of the field that were left, the plants were severely damaged. But we saved the others.”
Amidst the challenges posed by uncertain weather, farmers continue exploring innovative practices such as digging channels to let excess water drain away. Mrs. Aron is hopeful that their efforts bear fruit. She says, “This year, we might get [a] surplus once more.”