New Approach to Rural Development

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK In the face of Namibia’s rural development concept’s focus on food security issues, the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (MRLGHRD) wants rural development to be handled in a way that involves all sectors of the economy. The ministry will this month start consulting its stakeholders at regional level to chart the way forward on rural development, based on a conventional approach that puts emphasis on integrated rural development, which will involve coordinating selected sectoral activities with key line ministries. So far, rural development has been tackled at sectoral level, which focused on certain projects implemented by different government ministries. But MRLGHRD wants to come up with a definition as well as scope for rural development, which will lead to the formulation of a rural development policy and a strategy. Unlike its previous focus which was on the promotion of household food security and nutrition, under its current ministry the concept will be tackled at all fronts ranging from developing rural hubs, developing agriculture through the green scheme and conservancies as well as improving small businesses. “Rural development in this context will entail the implementation and execution of existing and new functions in a holistic manner, within the context of the decentralized process. This means that rural development will address cross sectoral issues with the focus of implementation being on the regions, through the proposed Regional Council Coordinated structure,” said MRLGHRD Minister, John Pandeni recently. The ministry has budgeted N$5.2 million for this financial year for the construction of infrastructure at Ongwediva, Ben Hur and Okashana rural development centres to make them more attractive and competitive. Manfred Menjengua, Deputy Director, Rural Development Planning told New Era yesterday that while many ministries execute projects at community level, the MRLGHRD would ensure that there is a coordinated approach first of all by setting benchmarks on what needs to be done. Menjengua said even though Namibia wants to create employment opportunities for its people, there are no benchmarks on which to measure progress made. “It cannot be quantified as there are no indicators, hence no benchmarks. We have to measure it against some indicators,” he added. The first consultative meeting to be held in Khomas region has been set for July 10-14 and after all the meetings have been held, the ministry will call a national conference, which will come up with a rural development policy and a strategy. Menjengua said consultants would then work out the different projects that should be carried out in the country and how they will address the country’s problems as well as data on the current situation for the projects not to flop. He said, for instance, while there is a general belief that communal conservancies have immense potential to improve the livelihoods of rural folk, the country needs to have an idea of how it wants to enhance the potential. “We need to know how to add more value to it in the end,” he said. Menjengua says that the new approach gives the ministry an opportunity to work to an extent that many people come into the country’s mainstream economy. In a related development, the 13 regions have developed Regional Specific Food Security and Nutrition Action Plans to provide information to policy makers and planners about critical areas and special groups affected by hunger and food insecurity. The ministry, under its Food Security and Nutrition Programme is thus in the process of finalising a Food Insecurity and Vulnerable Information Mapping System (FIVIMS) database, which will provide timely information to decision makers on food security and the nutrition situation in Namibia. The database is being developed in conjunction with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and will be hosted under the MRLGHRD because the Central Bureau of Statistics at the National Planning Commission, which should in normal cases keep such information, does not have the capacity to do so at present. FIVIMS is a kind of early warning system that will enable Namibia to respond proactively to its citizens’ vulnerability, as it assembles and disseminates information about individuals who are underfed, undernourished or at risk of becoming so. It encompasses vulnerable people, the nature of their vulnerability, where they are located, areas to be worst affected in case of floods, droughts and natural or man-made disasters, public amenities and how far they are from communities and rainfall patterns among many others. The idea, according to the deputy director, is to set up and launch the website before August end.