New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Country's Lessons From Somalia

Namibia being a drought prone country that it is should take a hard look at what is happening in the Horn of Africa and draw lessons from the devastation in that part of our continent.

Today it's Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya and who knows, tomorrow it might be us.

Natural disasters are so frequent these days that it would be naïve or even stupid not to expect them to hit us anytime.

One of the lessons that the calamity in the Horn of Africa reveals is donor fatigue.

Whereas developing or poor countries would in the past bank on the generosity of donors in the developed world, that window is fast closing as these countries reel under the weight of their own problems.

Major donor nations like the United States of America, Britain, France, Japan, Germany and others can no longer cope and their ability to extend a helping hand to others is becoming limited because of competing demands from their own populations. The economies of most of these donor nations have been contracting over the years such that they are suffocating slowly.

This state of affairs calls for stock-taking by the recipients of donor aid, including Namibia, so as to embark on a full-scale path of self-sufficiency and reliance at the shortest possible time. Unless we proceed to put our own house in order and be able to provide for ourselves, we risk perishing when natural disasters strike for there may be no one to come to our aid when that happens.

One such insurance against risks posed by natural disasters, particularly drought, is the development of the agricultural sector especially its infrastructure. More than ever before, this sector needs urgent attention for it holds the key to mitigate against most of the social problems that the country faces, these being growing poverty and unemployment.

We have to increase our agricultural output so that when disasters like drought or floods occur, the country has reserves to fall back on instead of pleading for help from others.

Namibia's deserts have to blossom and turned green with all kinds of crops for this is the only way out of the current quagmire where each time there is a disaster, we call for help from elsewhere.

This country is blessed with vast resources and a small population that should not be too much to feed adequately. It also has some of the most industrious people who, once given the opportunity to put shoulder to wheel, can do wonders and even excel.

It is thus inconceivable that the war against poverty is not being won quickly.

The provision of water is critical to food self-sufficiency and the mitigation of the effects of disasters like drought. Free rural water supply is a must if Namibians are going to become self-reliant in food.

News about the high cost of water in Namibia by the UN recently is a sign that the lives of poor people in the rural areas are under threat for water is the number one source of life in any rural setting.

Let us therefore sink as many boreholes and build as many earth dams as possible within the shortest possible time across the land. That way, we would deal better with a calamity like drought and avoid scenes of population starvation and mass deaths of animals as we see them in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya today.

We repeat, a nation that cannot feed itself is one that lives in utopia. Nations are only free as long as they feed themselves. Countries that depend on handouts cannot hope to be free for he who feeds them calls the shots.

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