Various adverse developments, globally and on the continent, within food production such as record high prices for food, fertilisers, and energy, as well as supply chain channel disruption, have worsened food security.
Domestically, the recurring episodes of floods and droughts have regularly disrupted food production given the reliance on rain-fed production.
Thus, the minister of agriculture, water and land reform, Carl Schlettwein called for a paradigm shift on how the country should approach food insecurity given various global shocks and climate change, Schlettwein said in his annual address to his team, indicating that the country’s dependence on imports will not solve its food insecurity status.
The minister stressed that various shocks in terms of fertilisers and other agricultural inputs cost, and protectionism are significant and have unmasked the country’s vulnerability not only to climate change but also, more importantly, to external event shocks.
He noted the adverse developments “warrant a policy shift from over-reliance on trade as an anchor for food security to food self-sufficiency anchored on intensive agriculture”.
He thus called for the modernisation and improvement of Namibia’s domestic productive capacity across the value chains.
He said the country’s recurring floods and droughts are now a regular phenomenon in the country, which may intensify due to climate change and the country must be well prepared to adapt to these natural wet-dry cycles.
The agriculture minister said the agronomic sub-sector has a collective role to play in the new paradigm through collaboration and collective interventions in the agriculture, water and land sub-sectors in order to achieve national food and nutrition security and self-sufficiency in basic staple foods.
Schlettwein noted that improved productivity and food security will not be achieved if inter-sectoral coordination is not prioritised, while proposing the leveraging of partnerships and integrating programmes in order to optimise impact and outcomes within the agriculture, water and land sectors.
According available data, the country’s white maize demand from April to December 2022 was 136 204 metric tonnes of which 97 534 tonnes were locally produced and 38 670 tonnes imported.
Schlettwein is, however, optimistic about this year’s output based on the current good rain experienced in the country combined with the revival of the Green Scheme projects.
He hinted that the country is on its way to self-sufficiency when it comes to white maize, “and it is my hope that it is achieved by 2024/2025”.
The ministry added that if all goes according to plan, a yield of 14 000 metrictonnes from various green schemes will overflow the current National Strategic Food Reserve which currently stands at a capacity of 11 000 metric tonnes.
These exclude expected output from small and medium-scale farmers.
Schlettwein stated that the national ambition of food security are of global proportion and requires the sectoral participants to depart from business as usual and the silo approaches to upscale the productive capacity, by aligning each intervention for the purpose of realising the ambition in the shortest time possible and within the available and integrated means of implementation.
He said Namibia has enormous potential, not only to feed itself and eliminate hunger and food insecurity but also to be a major player in global food markets, adding: “This potential lies in its vast land resources, water, human capital, infrastructure, institutions, and markets,” said Schlettwein.
However, according to the minister this ambition can be realised only when the current fragmentation is replaced with a seamless integration of all sub-sectors.