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Home / Opinion - Contextualizing food insecurity in Namibia … a call for action for social workers

Opinion - Contextualizing food insecurity in Namibia … a call for action for social workers

2022-11-18  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Contextualizing food insecurity in Namibia … a call for action for social workers

Munyungano Musisanyani

The concept of human security has been introduced to go beyond the classical understanding of security built upon realist tenets such as national security and military capacity. It aims to establish a new and more inclusive conceptualization of security. In this context, human security was mentioned for the first time under the Human Development Report, prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1994. It has been defined as a concept encompassing not only the security concerns of the states but also the security problems that could be encountered by “ordinary” people in their daily lives (Liotta, 2002, as cited in Kutlu, 2016). According to this definition, it is possible to argue that human security accommodates two fundamental aspects, first of which is the provision of security against chronic threats such as hunger, epidemics, or political oppression. The second aspect considers the protection against sudden and harmful interruptions in daily life. The threat categories listed by the UNDP within the scope of human security are those related to the economy, food, health, environment, as well as personal, social, and political threats.

The framework

Food is one of the most important items in the world as it is critical to human survival together with clothing and shelter. As 2022 is coming to an end, we should be reminded that there are 1.6 million or even more Namibians who are drowning in abject poverty due to food shortages right now. The question is, what is the government doing to address this issue? What are non-governmental organizations doing to help the needy? What is the private sector doing to neutralize the situation? What are we doing as fellow Namibians to help the needy and the vulnerable? Is this going to be business as usual come 2023 and beyond? Food security in Africa and Namibia in particular has come under extreme threats due to some factors some of which are natural while some are artificial depending on the circumstances and the countries involved. A food-secure world is one where all people have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food that provides the foundation for active and healthy lives (Fawole et al., 2015).  Consequently, food insecurity exists when people lack sustainable physical or economic access to enough safe, nutritious, and socially acceptable food for a healthy and productive life. Food insecurity may be chronic, seasonal, or temporary. Food insecurity and malnutrition result in catastrophic amounts of human suffering. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that approximately 60% of all childhood deaths in the developing world are associated with chronic hunger and malnutrition. In developing countries, persistent malnutrition leaves children weak, vulnerable, and less able to fight such common childhood illnesses as diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malaria, and measles (Fawole et al., 2015).

Namibia’s daunting statistics

In reference, the Namibian Sun newspaper of Tuesday, the 11th of October 2022 reported that, Namibia imports about 62% of horticulture products. For the past five years on average, Namibia’s monthly consumption of horticulture products has amounted to approximately 7 961 tons, which translates to 95 527 tons annually. Of the annual tonnage, 36 326 tons (38%) are locally produced, while 59 200 tons (62%) are imported mainly from South Africa (Smit, 2022). 

Putting this in perspective, this is so disappointing after 32 years of self-rule, it’s shocking to note that Namibia cannot sufficiently feed its tiny population. Namibia has vast arable land, especially in the two Okavangos and Zambezi regions which can be put under agricultural production but it seems to me the political leadership is not concerned about this growing social issue of food insecurity. 

What has social workers had to do with food insecurity? 

Although social work is still considered a young profession in Namibia, it has grown into an effective practice in fighting for the poor and the vulnerable. Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Social workers are professionals who aim to enhance overall well-being and help meet basic and complex needs of communities and people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and diversity are all central to the mission of social work, which is to promote social development and enhance the well-being of individuals, families and communities (International Federation of Social Workers, 2022). Social workers work with many different populations and types of people, particularly focusing on those who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.

It is important to note that, a basic moral test of any community or society is the way in which the most vulnerable members are faring. In a society characterized by deepening divisions between rich and poor, the needs of those most at risk should be considered a priority. One of the primary objectives of social work is to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities in life. Food insecurity is intertwined with social work practice and social justice because, it is the responsibility of social workers to fight for equal opportunities for all, fight structural injustices such as unequal distribution of the wealthy, distorted national policies, and vigorously fight for those who are unable to feed themselves due to economic hardships by connecting them to pure and public charity and by constantly engaging the central government to fight poverty and hunger through inclusive policies. Social workers advocate for living conditions conducive to the fulfilment of basic human needs and to promote social, economic, political, and cultural values and institutions that are compatible with the realization of social justice. Social workers pursue change with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups to: address poverty, unemployment, discrimination and other forms of social injustice; expand choice and opportunity; and promote social justice. By this, there is no doubt that people suffering from food insecurity are in need or that food insecurity is a social problem in Namibia. 

Therefore, food insecurity is a social problem primarily linked to poverty and discrimination; vulnerable populations are most at risk for food insecurity and struggle the most with access to resources of all types which adds to their vulnerability. Food insecurity can be clearly identified as a social justice issue because of its powerful impact on disadvantaged groups in society.

To end, whether social workers are engaging in micro-or macro-level approaches, their efforts are important in supporting community-driven development. The solution to the growing concern of food inaccessibility must be multifaceted and long-term, and it will require commitments from healthcare providers, public health advocates, and the communities and individuals they serve. If we are to alleviate under-resourced communities of food insecurity, social workers must assume the responsibility of gathering community opinion, educating the public on effective and ineffective practices of attaining food security thus unifying the residents of a community. 

Also, I am adamant that the only way to ensure food security in Namibia is to invest more in agriculture and open more agricultural technical centres. The government of Namibia and the private sector should incorporate local expertise by involving locals. They possess valuable knowledge regarding food production, but have limited resources.

*Munyungano Musisanyani is a food security activist. He holds a B.A (Hons) in Political Studies and Sociology. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree (Hons) in Social Work (Unam).

2022-11-18  Staff Reporter

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