WINDHOEK - Namibia plans to source a rice variety from Indonesia for testing at Kalimbeza rice project in the Zambezi Region.
This was revealed by Agriculture Minister Alpheus !Naruseb as part of his brief when he accompanied President Hage Geingob who paid a state visit to Indonesia on August 29-30th with the objective of discussing bilateral issues of interest between the two countries.
!Naruseb said during his stay, together with his delegation, they visited an agricultural research centre of Bogor Agricultural University where the institution presented its research product to them.
He explained this presentation included a drought tolerant and high yielding rice variety that could be suitable for Namibia’s climatic conditions.
“The presentation revealed that there is an opportunity for Namibia to cooperate with the university in terms of training and sourcing of the above-mentioned rice variety from Indonesia for testing at Kalimbeza rice project,” he noted.
Namibia is a drought-prone country with two deserts, the Namib and the Kalahari, that are expanding annually.
Water is a severely limiting factor for crop production in a country of just over two million people, 65 percent of whom live in rural areas where drought and marginal agricultural land are common features. Namibia imports about 80 percent of its food from neighbouring South Africa.
The Kalimbeza rice project currently grows three varieties of rice, namely Super, Iriga and Angola. There are several grains called rice, which have been cultivated for thousands of years. Asian rice (Oryza sativa) is most widely known and most widely grown, with two major subspecies and over 40,000 varieties
He said the meeting also discussed Namibia’s request for three rice seed varieties that was discussed in 2011 to which no feedback was provided.
In this regard, he added that the Namibian side was advised to make a new written request through the office of the secretary general of the Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia, with a copy to the office of the head of international cooperation.
Further, he said the joint working committee that is responsible for the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Namibia and Indonesia on agriculture met on the margin of the recent state visit to the Asian nation to review and discuss the implementation status of the workplan that was approved by the committee in 2016.
!Naruseb said the meeting agreed that given the relevance of the areas of cooperation contained in the MoU, the document should be renewed in its current form and content.
“In this regard, the signing of the MoU will be done in a circular manner in order to fast-track its renewal and subsequent implementation,” he noted.
The first meeting between the governments of Indonesia and Namibia after an agreement on agricultural development was signed by the two parties few years ago, took place in 2016.
The two governments signed a MoU in Bali in 2011 and agreed to implement a work plan on various technical areas of cooperation.
The agreement amongst others focuses on plant health and production; rice research and development in the northern and north eastern plains of Namibia; product development and value addition and capacity building on plant health.
It also covers the protection and production of animal and plant genetic material; cooperation on agro-industrial technology development; bilateral trade in agricultural products; seed quality; as well as training of veterinarians and technicians.
Equally, !Naruseb said the workplan will also be renewed in its current configuration and content.
However, he said the activities contained therein should be re-prioritised to bring forward the activities related to plant health and quarantines as well as capacity building.
According to him, the prioritisation is guided by Namibia’s need to capacitate and fully operationalise the new division of plant health; and is informed by the fact that the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture recently finalised the establishment of the International Institute on Plant Health and Quarantine.
He revealed that this institute is currently training professionals from different countries and is ready to accommodate students and professionals from Namibia for both qualifying and short-term training.
Therefore, he said the ministry will position itself to benefit from the financial facilities that are available under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
“In this regard, the ministry of agriculture should identity and package priority projects that have the potential to attract funding from FOCAC,” he said.