WINDHOEK – The eyes of an ever increasing food insecure world were focused on Namibia last week when the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) launched the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund Project (ASTF).
The aim of the two-day workshop is to strengthen controls of food safety threats, plant and animal pests and disease for agricultural productivity and trade in Southern Africa. Lauding the FAO initiative, newly appointed Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Theo Diergaardt, stressed the crucial role of the agricultural sector in the Namibian economy and applauded the government for adopting policies aimed at raising and maintaining acceptable level of nutrition, food security and standard of living. The launch of the ASTF came barely 48 hours after the government availed N$300 million to implement interim drought measures after yet another poor rainy season for Namibia and when food insecurity has crept into many rural households.
Diergaardt stressed that all Namibians have the right to expect that the food available on the domestic market is safe and of the acceptable quality. “Diseases affecting crop and livestock in a country where more than 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture can have a devastating impact on agricultural productivity and production, on agro trade and marketing, on human health and on the overall economic development,” he noted.
FAO representative to Namibia Babagana Ahmadu said the fund aims to pool resources from some African countries and se then across the continent to implement initiatives in the framework of the African Union’s Comprehensive Arica Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). “We aim to reduce the incidences of occurrence of food contamination, animal and plant pests and diseases and their impact on the productivity of food crops, livestock, fisheries and forest resources so to enhance safe intra-regional trade in order to contribute to improved food and nutrition security in the SADC region,” he told New Era.
Ahmadu says the main objective of the workshop is to develop a national plan for Namibia to implement necessary measures needed to develop capacities at national and regional levels to tackle the problems and fill all the gaps identified. In her presentation on the project’s goals and objectives, Joyce MulilaMitti, crop production and protection officer of FAO, said the project will run for three years, expressing the hope that it will also contribute towards creating jobs for young people. “Some 267 million people in the SADC region rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Namibia is no exception with agriculture being one of the strongest pillars of the economy,” she noted.
Detailed discussions on animal health, plant health, food safety, forestry and fisheries will be conducted during the workshop.