The official opposition leader is irked by the fact that the 16 family members who lost their lives after eating contaminated mahangu are in the same Kavango East region where the dormant N$141 million Uvhungu Vungu dairy project is located on the outskirts of Rundu.
Furthermore, both Kavango East and Kavango West are home to most of the country’s green schemes meant for food production.
The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani raised his concerns about the present status of the N$141 million Uvhungu Vungu dairy farm project in the Kavango Eastremains a white elephant.
Venaani stressed the importance of ensuring the project is completedto create job opportunities and economic benefits for locals, apart from dairy products.
“Our duty is towards the young generation that depends on us to pave the way for a brighter future,”he said in a letter to the Minister of Agriculture Calle Schlettwein, dated 14 June 2023.
The PDM leader wrote that the inactivity of such a valuable resource not only deprives the nation of potential economic growth but also exacerbates the unemployment crisis, especially among the youth.
“The dairy farm industry is pivotal in creating job opportunities and promoting sustainable development, both of which contribute significantly to our nation’s progress,” he stressed.
Venaani said the Namibian dairy sector is currently battling to survive, with production decreasing and the price-cost squeeze forcing producers to exit the sector.
He said reports indicate that raw milk production dropped from 21,8 million litres in 2019 to 17,2 million litres currently, which equates to a 21,1% decline in volumes.
He pointed out that the operationalisation of this ‘dormant’ dairy farm is of paramount importance to address the pressing challenges the country faces concerning food security.
According to the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Namibia suffers from a serious level of hunger, ranking 78th out of 116 countries.
“We import up to 80% of food, as not all goods can be sourced locally. Indicators reveal that malnutrition is a growing concern, with 24% of children under the age of 5 stunted, 6% experiencing wasting and 13% underweight,” Venaani said in the letter.
He added that “we have recently bore witness to the decimation of 16 family members who were in dire need of nourishment, in the very region where this dairy farm lay dormant for the past 11 years”.
He further emphasised that this tragedy could have been avoided had the government and the line ministry addressed food insecurity with the urgency it deserves.
“I will be the first to assert that issues such as these must never be politicised, yet the unavoidable truth remains that 33 years after independence, it is unacceptable that we still implore upon the government to urgently mechanise the agricultural secto,” he said.
“Forward-looking, sustainable agriculture relies on a delicate balance of maximising productivity and maintaining economic viability while minimising the utilisation of finite natural resources and detrimental environmental impacts,” the PDM leader noted.