Namibia: 280 000 Namibians Face Hunger

MORE THAN 280 000 people in rural Namibia are faced with weakening food security, with many households reported to have no food reserves left, as a result of a devastating drought.

The diminishing food reserves come after failed agricultural production due to the severe drought conditions experienced last season.

This was according to the household food security situation report for December 2019, released by the agriculture ministry.

The report added that households are heavily dependent on the market for food access, while some receive government drought relief assistance to supplement their food requirements.

Some 289 644 people were found to be food insecure and needed immediate food assistance, according to the Namibian Vulnerability Assessment Committee's first-round report.

However, this number is expected to increase during the course of the 2019/2020 consumption period.

"Some of the drought-affected households do not have the necessary means to access food simply because they do not have formal sources of income other than agriculture, which had failed last season or are not covered by the social safety nets. As such, these people are given priority to receive the drought relief food assistance from the government, though the food quantity is said to be insufficient," the report noted.

The government's drought relief interventions countrywide are set to run till the end of March 2020, and these include food relief to the drought-affected communities, especially the vulnerable groups, the livestock marketing incentive scheme, lease of grazing, transport subsidy to and from the grazing areas, water tanker services, rehabilitation and installation of boreholes, subsidy on lick supplements for core herd, fodder subsidy and provision of certified seeds.

The prime minister's office is championing the drought relief food intervention while the agriculture ministry is implementing the rest of the interventions.

The food security report noted that: "Drought relief food given to beneficiaries include maize meal, cooking oil and tinned fish. The maize used in the food basket is sourced through the government strategic food reserve and is sent to the millers for milling and packaging before [it is] given to beneficiaries."

According to the government strategic food reserve levels as at 30 November 2019, most grain silos are nearly empty, as the current stock is only 7,33% of the total holding capacity.

This consists of about 711,86 metric tonnes of white maize at Katima Mulilo, Rundu and Tsandi silos and about 967,32 metric tons of pearl millet at Okongo silo.

The sustainable development goals' baseline report for Namibia for 2019 showed that 10% of the Namibian population is living in abject poverty, translating to about 258 259 people affected.

Namibia's extreme poverty line stood at N$293 per month for food for households. This is the average amount available to families to live on per month.

Social researcher, Herbert Jauch, says many people do not have to go hungry if they had alternatives such as a basic income grant that would help rural people fight poverty and deal with disasters like drought without having to wait for the government.

"Drought relief is the traditional response by the government but it only kicks in in times of crisis, takes long to administer and does not reach all in need. It is a reactive measure that does not provide protection against future droughts and emergencies. Thus, a better alternative would be to work with rural farmers on drought-resistant strategies and crops. Also, potential diversification and land management practices need to be explored," he said.

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