Hunger plagues 20% of Namibians

Disease is the primary cause for the food shortages, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, but also foot-and-mouth disease among livestock and pests such as worms and locusts, which attack crops.

02 August 2021 | Local News

Elvira Hattingh







A total of 427 905 Namibians, or 20% of the population, experienced acute or severe food shortages last year.

The regions worst affected by food shortages are Kunene, Erongo, Khomas, Ohangwena, Kavango West, Omaheke and Zambezi.

Anna Dumeni of the Prime Minister's Office on Friday said food aid is still being provided to Kunene and parts of Erongo and Omusati.

Dumeni made these remarks during a national dialogue in preparation for the United Nations (UN) World Food Systems Summit, slated for September. The talks will continue until 16 August.

Dumeni said disease was the primary cause for the food shortages, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, but also foot-and-mouth disease among livestock and pests such as worms and locusts, which attacked crops.

In addition, the loss of jobs due to Covid-19 restrictions also played a major role, while rising prices, poverty, unemployment, droughts and floods also left a mark.

Dumeni said the ministry's biennial vulnerability analysis would be conducted again in August to obtain the latest figures on food security.

She cited numerous programmes and policies developed to address the problem, including the zero-hunger strategy, the climate change adaptation strategy, and the food and food security implementation plan.

Slack in enforcing policies

Bertus Kruger, moderator of the talks, said Namibia has well-developed policies, but is slack in enforcing those policies.

He also said that food shortages are attributed to numerous external factors, but that the impact of poor agricultural practices must also be investigated.

"For example, with conservation farming practices, we can produce up to 10 times more," he noted.

Gerson Kampungu of the Namibian Agricultural Board (NAB) argued that more money could be made available for local food production, which would boost production drastically overall.

Namibia annually imports mahangu worth N$18.8 million from India, as well as N$483 million worth of white maize from South Africa and N$620 million worth of wheat from India, Poland, Russia and South Africa.

"Furthermore, up to N$109.2 million worth of potatoes were imported in the 2018-19 financial year, although Namibia itself also produces potatoes and exports a small amount," he said.

He said Namibia's 50 000 mahangu producers grow only about 27% of all mahungu consumed locally each year, while the country's 3 000 maize producers produce 37% of the white maize consumed. In terms of wheat, 20 farmers produce 10% of the wheat we consume locally.

Production

Kampungu said opportunities exist to increase primary production, market access and to process surplus production, but that high input costs, dependence on seed imports and chemicals from elsewhere and a lack of access to finance were barriers to such efforts.

Maria Amakali, director of water management at the agriculture and water ministry, said Namibia has room to use almost 300 million cubic meters more water per year for irrigation purposes - provided the necessary development takes place.

Kruger added that Namibia has large areas suitable for crop production, but that the critical question is how accessible the areas are to the private sector.

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