NAMIBIA is striving to create a conducive climate that will increase the number of business operators in the local food value chain.
This was the view expressed by environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta during an interactive dialogue on boosting sustainable value chains for land-based business at the 14th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in New Delhi, India this week.
The convention, which comprises 197 parties, aims to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing severe drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.
The biannual conference started last Monday, and will end on Friday. Shifeta attended the high-level segment involving ministers on Monday and Tuesday.
According to the ministry of agriculture's crop prospect report, the country will need to import 261 500 tonnes of cereals, which is about 75% of the national requirements to make up for the country's production shortfall.
Following a Cabinet Decision 7th/10.05.11/015, Namibia established the Agro-Marketing and Trading Agency (Amta) as one such hub which would coordinate and manage the marketing and trading of agricultural produce in Namibia.
However, The Namibian reported in July that this agency of the agriculture ministry that was meant to support and guarantee a market for fresh produce farmers, was not operational.
This is because the agents who were contracted to buy produce from farmers abandoned the hubs after miscommunication between Amta and the line ministry.
During this same period, Amta had to close some of their fresh produce distribution hubs when one of its biggest marketing agents, Fysal Fresh Produce, deserted the agency.
Furthermore, the country also has more than 11 green schemes that are operated by the Agricultural Business Development Agency (Agribusdev), which was created to monitor and create an ideal environment to facilitate the sustainable growth of agronomic production.
However, due to a lack of expertise and a limited local market for fresh produce, the agency has been decapitated financially.
Earlier this year, Agribusdev claimed that it has been underfunded for the last five years, resulting in the work at most green schemes screeching to a halt and unable to be recapitalised.
Agriculture ministry executive director Percy Misika previously gave an example of the Etunda Irrigation Scheme that was ravaged by the armyworm in 2017, explaining that green schemes needed a large amount for recapitalisation, but the government did not have sufficient funds.
"SoEs need government guarantees to get such funding. Such a guarantee is not there," Misika explained.
These are only a few of the shortcomings crippling the government's green schemes and other agricultural projects.
Shifeta stated Namibia's vision for commercialising wild and produced food, which he said could encourage the diversification of income-generating opportunities for rural Namibians.
"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," he said.
"Namibia believes that the concept of sustainable food value chains can pave the way for sustainable land management, drive out poverty and ensure environmental sustainability in developing countries," the minister added.
Furthermore, Shifeta said the commercialisation of wild and produced food could encourage a better use of these resources, and make a positive contribution to farming systems and household food security, while stimulating the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.
"The government of Namibia will continue mobilising resources to capacitate communities to develop a more in-depth understanding of the food production and 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," he emphasised.
According to Shifeta, these incentives complement Namibia's 'Growth at Home Strategy', which is a strategy for industrial development initiated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
"[The strategy] promotes and supports value-addition, upgrading and diversification for sustained growth; securing market access at home and abroad; and improving the investment climate and conditions," he said.
Shifeta furthermore observed that Namibia is working to increase the number of business operators in processing, quality testing and bio-prospecting.
The government furthermore supports the market-driven development of locally produced food and the processing of indigenous natural plants, in order to increase the number of collaborative projects with organisations in user markets.
"We believe in so doing, the quality and quantity of Namibian-produced food and biodiversity-based ingredients will be improved, and the capacity of our national institutions to meet national and international standards will be improved," he added.
Currently, there are 289 644 people who are food-insecure and need immediate assistance, according to the Namibian Vulnerability Assessment Committee report (NAMVAC, 2019), and this number is expected to rise during the 2019/2020 consumption period.