Namibia – worst drought in a century


Namibia dam water levels have almost halved from already low levels as the worst drought in more than 100 years pushes the desert nation closer to famine.

Dams nationwide were at 19.3% of capacity compared to 35.6% this time last year, water utility Namwater said, a drop officials blame on climate change and a five-year drought in southern Africa.

On Thursday, the environment ministry told Reuters drought caused a third of Namibia’s 2.5 million population to go hungry and hundreds of wild animals in conservation parks as well cattle on farms were dying.

The ministry recently auctioned 1 000 animals from national parks to ease food shortages. It culled surplus cattle with meat going to a drought and hunger relief programme.

“It’s important to note it makes conservation-sense to reduce wildlife numbers when grazing is poor,” said Romeo Muyunda, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

“If we don’t, we’ll run the risk of having species wiped out.”

Muyunda said the department was rehabilitating existing water points and drilling new boreholes as quickly as it could.

Minister of Environment Pohamba Shifeta said at a climate change conference in Madrid on Tuesday 700 000 Namibians were food insecure and the agricultural sector contracted for the last five years, with rural households and small-scale farmers hardest hit.

In neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe, dropping water levels at Kariba Dam on the Zambesi River resulted in power cuts. South Africa introduced rationing.

Namibia’s economy is set to shrink by 1.5% in 2019 after contracting 0.1% last year due largely to severe drought, the finance ministry said in October.