Namibia: Summit to Tackle Food Insecurity

Namibia has indicated its intention to contribute to the United Nations Food Systems Summit by convening dialogues at both national and sub-national levels.

Namibia's largely semi-arid climate and arid conditions are expected to worsen the variability and intensify their impact on the economy and general livelihoods.

Also, low levels of agricultural production in the communal areas are partly due to limited available land, which consists of 34% of the total agricultural land in Namibia - able to support economic crop and livestock production.

During July to September 2020, around 42 8000 people (17% of the population) were facing high levels of acute food insecurity or worse, including around 14 000 people in emergency phase.

This population requires urgent humanitarian action to reduce food gaps, protect and restore livelihoods and prevent acute malnutrition.

The main drivers of acute food insecurity in the country are prolonged dry spells, flooding and loss of income due to the impacts of Covid-19 control measures on livelihoods.

To address food insecurity, government has nominated a national convener, who is agriculture, water and land reform minister Carl Schlettwein, a task team and secretariat to support the national and regional dialogues, which are slated for the period 29 July to 16 August 2021.

In September 2021, UN Secretary General António Guterres will convene a Food Systems Summit to raise global awareness and land global commitments and actions that transform food systems to resolve not only hunger but to reduce diet-related disease and heal the planet.

This will be preceded by a pre-summit meeting in Rome in July 2021.

The UN has invited its member states to convene a national three-stage dialogue process that involves the participation of a broad base of stakeholders, of which Namibia has indicated its intention to participate in the global dialogue.

The agriculture ministry's spokesperson, Jonas Musheko, explained Namibia's concerted efforts towards food security, saying the commercial and communal production systems are under increased threat from climate change, although the smallholder and subsistence-farming sub-sector, located particularly in the northern regions, is far more vulnerable.

"Climate change poses a particular threat in reducing the amount and reliability of rainfall and increasing evaporation due to rises in temperature. This will decrease the availability of already scarce water resources. Smallholder and subsistence farmers struggle with access to inputs including water," he noted.

Musheko attributed low levels of productivity in the communal crop-farming sub-sector are partly due to smallholder producers not experiencing sustained technological progress, poor soil conditions, and prolonged and frequent drought spells.

Equally, he said, the ministry continues to introduce new technologies to smallholder producers and promote crop production under irrigation.

However, he admitted, the productivity of the livestock sector in the communal areas is constrained by high frequencies of drought, overgrazing, low calving rate, low off-take rate, traditional farming practices, as well as exclusion from the lucrative markets due to frequent prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease in the Zambezi region.

Meanwhile, poor grazing remains a major concern in the northern regions.

"All these unique challenges present an opportunity for stakeholders to convene and engage productively in order to shape the national pathway for sustainable food systems (in line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development) and consolidate country-level commitments and actions," Musheko remarked.

The national dialogues will bring together various stakeholders within the food systems sector, including youth, smallholder farmers, indigenous people, researchers, private sector, policymakers, environment, health and finance, among others, to identify the most powerful ways to make our food systems stronger and more equitable.

The multi-stakeholder national food systems dialogues will serve as a means to support the member states in developing national pathways towards sustainable food systems.

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