Indigenous plants key in poverty battle

11 September 2019 | Environment

The sustainable wild harvesting and trade in indigenous natural plants has the potential to contribute significantly to the alleviation of rural poverty and the conservation of natural resources.

This is according to environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, who was speaking at the high-level segment of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP14) in New Delhi, India yesterday.

Shifeta made the remarks at an interactive dialogue on boosting sustainable value chains for land-based businesses.

According to Shifeta, sustainable food value chains can pave the way for sustainable land management, drive out poverty and ensure environmental sustainability in developing countries.

“Communities living in the harsh and already marginal agro-environments often depend on indigenous natural plants for their livelihoods and the challenge is to support them to sustainably benefit from these resources,” he said.

According to Shifeta, it is typically the poorest of the poor, and more often women living in rural areas, that depend on indigenous natural plants to improve their food security, and they are increasingly engaged in the commercialisation of these products to improve their livelihoods.

He said the positive impact and the economic value of natural products on the conservation of indigenous natural plants in Namibia is widely recognised by government, civil society and community leaders alike.

“Namibia is committed to ensure the maintenance of healthy ecosystems on which rural households manage their livelihoods. This complements the national 'Growth at Home' strategy that promotes and supports value-addition, upgrading and diversification, sustained growth, securing market access at home and abroad, and improving the investment climate and conditions,” said Shifeta.

He said the commercialisation of wild and produced food could lead to diversification of income-generating opportunities for rural Namibians, encouraging better use of these resources and making a positive contribution to farming systems and household food security, while stimulating the development of SMEs.

Supporting harvesters to form organised producer groups, which are able to negotiate contracts directly with exporters, will ensure better income-generation and food security in rural Namibia, the minister said.

“The government of Namibia will continue mobilising resources to capacitate communities to develop a more in-depth understanding of food production and the processing industry, and work towards a consistent and effective supply chain, while simultaneously ensuring that such production processes do not harm the land, in particular, and the environment, in general.”

Shifeta said Namibia is actively creating a conducive investment climate to increase the number of processing operators, as well as quality testing and bio-prospecting.

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