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Opinion - Ensuring food, nutrition security amid Covid

2021-03-09  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Ensuring food, nutrition security amid Covid
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The novel coronavirus poses a new global threat. As the world battles this pandemic and as economies and livelihoods are disrupted, the poor and the vulnerable members on our societies are likely to suffer most. 

The Covid-19 crisis is challenging food systems and health systems around the world, and its unprecedented impacts on livelihoods raise serious concerns about food and nutrition security for many of the world’s poor (Andam, Edeh, Oboh, Pauw, Thurlow, 2020). According to the Committee for World Food Security (2012), food security is when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to food which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life. 

Nutrition security encompasses food security, which encompasses nutrient content (Ingram, 2020). This article proposes ways to ensure food and nutrition security in Namibia amid Covid-19 crisis.

Namibia’s dependency syndrome on food commodities from South Africa has aggravated amid Covid-19 crisis and as a result, food prices have risen drastically despite government subsidies on cereals to ensure food prices remains stable. Worryingly, between July and September 2020, around 428 000 Namibians (17% of the population) faced high levels of acute food insecurity. This population required urgent humanitarian action in order to reduce food gaps, protect and restore livelihoods and prevent acute malnutrition. 

The regions of Kunene, Erongo, Khomas, Ohangwena, Kavango West, Omaheke and Zambezi were the most affected ones. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Acute Food Insecurity Analysis Report (2020), the main drivers of acute food insecurity in Namibia are prolonged dry spells, flooding and loss of income due to impacts of Covid-19 control measures on livelihoods. Moreover, it was projected that  in
October 2020 to March 2021, around 441 000 Namibians will potentially face high levels of acute food insecurity or worse. Despondently, the impact of Covid-19 mitigation measures will likely continue to put pressure on household’s capacity to access food (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, 2020).

To add more woes on Namibia’s food systems, Namibia continues to splash huge amounts of monies on food commodities imported from South Africa instead of developing its struggling agricultural food systems. 

In consequence, in October 2020, Namibia’s import value of fruits amounted to N$32 million, rising by 9.3% from N$29 million in September 2020. Overall, Namibia imported N$408 million worth of fruits since October 2019, with an average of N$31 million. 

The highest figure, N$41 million, was recorded in November 2019, while the lowest figure, N$25 million, was registered in May 2020. Of the N$32 million worth of imports in October last year, 24.4% involved fresh apples, 12.1% bananas, 11,9% dried fruits, 4.3% strawberries, and 3.2% involved pears. Some 99.3% of these products were solely sourced from South Africa (Namibia Statistics Agency 2020, as cited in Erastus, 2021, p.13). 

Therefore, the need to ensure food and nutrition security in Namibia is not only a basic need for human survival and existence but also crucial to ensure the nourishment of the growing population of Namibia. 

In order to yield greater results, sustain agriculture and ultimately ensure food and nutrition security in Namibia, the need for agricultural innovation becomes prominent. These innovations can be new ideas, methods, and modifications of existing practices to yield and achieve remarkable results.

This author strongly believes that, to ensure food and nutrition security in Namibia amid Covid-19 crisis and subsequently reduce overreliance on food products from South Africa, the Namibian government and other stakeholders should consider the following:

Academic awareness - The constant awareness of agricultural benefits should be encouraged in the Namibian schools, also implementation of scholarships and grants should be awarded to young Namibians to study agricultural related courses. To ensure they practice, such support should be extended even after their graduation.

Technology utilisation 

Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industries (Google, 2021). Namibian farmers need to be trained on using technological innovations to boost production. These technologies in the form of computers, internet and automated machines could go a long way in forecasting, fast circulation of vital information and to reduce waste of resources in farming.

Scientific improvements 

Namibia should embrace the 4th industrial revolution principles. This could be as computer programming of machines, improvement on seed species, designing of modified storage facilities, improved pesticide and herbicides. Funds for these research works should be made available to young Namibian scientists by government and non-governmental organisations.

Provision of extension services 

Although the government is doing exceptionally well on this, aggressive steps are still needed to help farmers especially those in rural settings to scale their agricultural production. Most Namibians farmers are rural farmers with little or no formal education, so extension service workers should be used in training on these farmers on different levels as this would significantly boost agricultural production in our country.

Monitor agricultural product quality 

Through the Namibian regulatory marketing standards, our government should extend their hands to farmers especially those in rural areas in making sure that they produce healthy, quality and nutritious agricultural products to ensure nutrient security.

In conclusion, the Namibian government including other stakeholders needs to tackle all food and nutrition security dimensions of this crisis. Addressing the Covid-19 crisis requires us to work together across sectors to mitigate the immediate impacts and to reshape food systems so they support healthy diets for all and do more to make food production and consumption aligned to Namibia’s sustainable development

2021-03-09  Staff Reporter

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