• September 30th, 2020

Food security in Namibia, a national concern!

Reagan Munyungano
    Musisanyani & Arthur Nunes         Kambambi 

The agricultural sector in Namibia, is common with many other developing countries, plays a very important role in both social and economic dimensions. Indeed, the majority of the people who lives in rural settings derive their livelihood from agriculture. Wretchedly, Namibian agriculture is structured in favour of the minority whites that comprise fewer than 10% of the population but dominate the most profitable sub-subsector, the commercial sector, on most of the useable land alienated from the blacks (Sherbourne, 2014).

The commercial sector has received more support and attention from the central government than those who practice agriculture in the communal areas mostly those in northern and northeastern parts of Namibia through various agricultural subsidies and specialized agricultural technical skills support. Despite the presence of commercial farms in Namibia, our country has struggled to maintain the essence of food security thus striving through food imports from South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and other European countries to feed its population of less than 2.6 million people, (approximately the population of Pretoria).

Food security is a concept that has evolved during the 1990s far beyond a traditional focus on the supply of food at the national level.  This concept has been given general definitions in the past but in recent times, there has been a divergence of ideas on what food security actually means. According to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report of 2008, food security is defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active and healthy life. To add on, the definition adopted by the countries attending the World Food Summit (WFS) of 1996, and reconfirmed in 2002, accepts the United States of America’s Agency of International Development’s (USAID) concept which has three key elements: food availability, food access and food utilization.

 However, a fourth concept is increasingly becoming accepted namely, “the risks that can disrupt anyone of the first three factors” (FAO report, 2008). Moreover, for the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (UNCWFS), food security is when all people, at all times, have physical social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. Food Security means that all people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate foods, which are produced in an environmentally sustainable and socially just manner, and that people are able to make informed decisions about their food choices. More importantly, food security means that, the people who produce food commodities are able to earn a decent, living wage growing, catching, producing, processing, transporting, retailing, and serving food. At the core of food security is access to healthy food and optimal nutrition for all. Food access is closely linked to food supply, so food security is dependent on a healthy and sustainable food system. The food system includes the production, processing, distribution, marketing, acquisition, and consumption of food (Over Grow the System, 2015).

To get running, the government of the Republic of Namibia, under South West Africa People’s Organization party (Swapo), has implemented some measures to encourage food security by setting up various Green Scheme Projects (GSPs) across the country such as the Kalimbeza Rice Project in the Zambezi region, Musese Irrigation Project in Kavango region, Hardap Irrigation Project in Hardap region, Etunda Irrigation Project in Omusati region, and Orange River Irrigation Project in //Karas region (Joseph, 2012), but with these “moral agricultural gestures”, Namibia’s food sovereignty is still uncertain.

The authors of this dissertate firmly believes that, despite the financial constrains Namibia face contemporary, which has forced the Namibian government to stick to fiscal consolidation, the central government should focus on developing the agricultural sector of the Zambezi and the two Kavango regions in order to boost Namibia’s food production stunted status, thus complementing the profit oriented commercial sector. These savanna regions do not only have fertile soils, but can accommodate any kind of cereal crops, vegetables and fruits and receive high rainfall more than any other regions of Namibia, thus have the potential to feed the whole of Namibia if more investments in the agriculture sector are seriously encouraged.

Statistically, Namibia imported food commodities of the value of N$4 billion in 2004, and rose to N$7.3 billion in 2014 (New Era, 2015). The food Namibia imports includes various categories of vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, tea, spices, seed of wheat, maize, roasted, malt, sunflower seed and oil, margarine, prepared foods, bulgar wheat, sweet biscuits and all types of juices and water (New Era, 2015).
Moreover, during the 2017/2018 financial year, Namibia imported an astronomical 96% of its fruits, 96% of wheat, 60% of pearl millet and 40% of white maize from foreign countries in order to satisfy the local market (The Namibian, 2019). All these products can be grown in Zambezi and the two Kavango regions if the government of Namibia is serious about achieving food security in our country. Sadly, N$748 million worth of fruits and vegetables were imported into Namibia in 2018 alone. 

It is so painful to observe that; millions of monies are being spent on food imports in the process thus tempering with employment creation. On that same note, Namibia’s sole dependence on imported food from South Africa (mainly) and other countries is at the edge of creating a social dysfunction. This is evident with the not so long ago xenophobia in South Africa’s major cities, which nearly forced the shutdown of importing food from South Africa to Namibia. Is other words, it appears that Namibia as a country cannot think or do much for itself without south Africa – exactly as it was during brutal era of blood apartheid!

The nation is already on its knees with the effects of climate change and the economic crisis on our throats, a begging government is not a stable government, especially in times of drought where food prices increases, resulting into the poorest people having close to not to eat or not to eat all. It is indeed a pity to note that, Namibia is viewed as incapable of food security in the country (as a whole). Little attention is vested on communal farmers and their indigenous knowledge on food production. The Zambezi and the two Kavango regions are by far the best options as hubs for food security in Namibia. This whole dependence on South Africa and other countries for everything, especially food is going to cost us a lot. If our own people, government and whosoever is concerned does not invest on these things soon, we as a nation will be labelled as the begging nation.

The authors of this article strongly believe that, the only way to ensure food security in Namibia is to pour out more and more financial aid in the aagriculture sector of those respective regions, build more agricultural research centres and even universities or schools of Agriculture for technical and specialized skills. Let those who are experts in the areas of Agriculture go in the field, especially in those areas. The government or the private sector should buy and involve local knowledge by involving the locals, they have valuable knowledge than anticipated. Employ the local (Namibians) Agricultural graduates and send them to work in those places. That way it becomes a national investment. 

It is also equally very important to note that, subsistence farmers north of the redline lack the means to adapt to rising temperatures and adverse weather events such as droughts and floods, there is a critical need to strengthen the ability of farming communities to cope with the impacts of climate change. Investing in weather forecast systems, insurance schemes, efficient irrigation technology and heat or drought-tolerant crop varieties can help boost farm productivity under increasingly severe climate conditions Namibia face contemporary.

This climate is not getting any better, for us as a nation to become ignorant about our national food security. It is morally wrong to continue spending huge amount of money on military projects, spending more money protecting Very Important Persons (VIPs) (we do not know from who), and losing state funds through systematic and grand corruption while Namibians are experiencing shortages of food, while children are dying of malnutrition due to lack of nutritious food and insufficient food commodities. Namibian government should know that, where there is no food, there is no life.

Staff Reporter
2020-02-18 08:20:15 | 7 months ago

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