By Lize Kubersky MARIENTAL More than 600 people from the community of Mariental, including teachers, learners, elders, regional councillors and Governor Katrina Hanse, gathered on Saturday at the Sportsground in commemoration of the 26th World Food Day (WFD) and the 14th International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP). Under the theme: “Invest in Agriculture, For Food Security” the masses experienced an information and cultural extravaganza, with performances from schools, DD. Guibeb Primary and Mariental High. Empelheim illustrated diverse channelling of concern with a Tswana – and Gumboot dance accompanied by a powerful poem. President Hifikepunye Pohamba, in a keynote address read by governor Hanse, said the commemoration is taking place at a time when the world is in a crisis with public attention focused on conflicts and wars. The President stated that the 800 million people, who are stalked by food insecurity find it difficult to act positively towards the achievement of humanity’s quest for ‘a world free from hunger and poverty’ should not be forgotten. “Progress in eradicating poverty and reducing hunger has been disappointingly slow and, as such, we must work together to boost food production. This must always be at the centre of national and international poverty-reduction programmes.” Pohamba also addressed the debilitating factor of poverty weakening nations illustrating it with undernourished mothers giving birth to underweight babies, whose health and growth may be compromised for the rest of their lives. “Children who go to bed hungry cannot fight off diseases and infections, nor can they concentrate properly at school. As a result, they lose out on opportunities for learning so that they can escape the hunger-poverty trap.” The complex connection between hunger and poverty is the direct influence in the formation of this year’s theme, he said. “In many ways, hunger and poverty have become urban and rural phenomena in developing countries, closely linked to poor agricultural production and adverse weather conditions,” he said, adding that 70 percent of the world’s population still live in rural areas, where agricultural production provides either food directly or indirectly. “Namibia is no exception. That is why during the World Food summit in 1996 the Heads of State and governments committed themselves to promoting public and private investments in agriculture as a contribution to the goal of reducing by half the number of hungry by 2015. I believe that the target set in 1996 can still be met. However, it rests with individuals themselves, their families, communities and governments working with the private sector and international co-operating partners,” the President asserted. The speech included the Green Scheme where the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry aims to encourage local production of staple foods such as maize, mahangu, cassava as well as vegetables and fruit. It is estimated that the Green scheme in Namibia will cost more than N$2 billion over a period of ten years. The Namibian Agronomic Board is also spearheading the national Horticultural project, which is aimed at promoting the production and marketing of local goods, by supporting the establishment of collection centres for agricultural produce such as vegetables and fruit. He also mentioned that grape production from the Karas Region has penetrated the European markets and will soon be exported to the United States of America. The President further noted that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry promotes local commitment to wildlife and natural resources, including aquaculture in tandem with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, are going ahead to boost capacity for smallholder farmers. “I believe that, through various activities and initiatives, we have managed to put Namibia on the list of those countries committed to the eradication of hunger and poverty. Thus, what we need to do is to participate consistently in future campaigns and efforts in order to maintain the momentum,” Pohamba said.
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