Namibians demand answers on food insecurity

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Windhoek

Namibia is eagerly awaiting a review that will help the country prepare for the post-2015 development agenda, which brings new sustainable development goals that include ending hunger.

The review was promised last Thursday by the National Planning Commission (NPC) Permanent Secretary, Leevi Hungamo, who said that for the past decade there has been a decline in poverty rates by 11 percent, but despite these positive achievements food insecurity and undernourishment in Namibia continue. Hungamo was speaking at the opening of the Food and Nutrition Security Strategic Review workshop in Windhoek. The workshop was attended by officials from the NPC, Office of the Prime Minister, World Food Programme and the agriculture and health ministries.

The workshop assessed progress made with existing policies and programmes and identified gaps as well as formulated recommendations to fill those gaps. The urgent review came in the wake of statistics showing more Namibians are going hungry despite decreasing rates of poverty.

A United Nations report on food insecurity recently showed that 42.3 percent of Namibians were undernourished in 2014, compared to 27.3 percent in 2002. “These statistics are worrisome, and as we all know, the war on poverty cannot be won if the majority of the population is still going hungry,” said Hungamo.

He further noted that the workshop was an exercise that would help to gain an understanding on why, despite government’s commitment, efforts are not fully reflected in improvements to food and nutrition security in the country.

Special adviser in the health ministry, Bience Gawanas, echoed what Hungamo said, adding that drivers of food insecurity need to be identified so that an understanding of why there is hunger can be established. “It is an opportune time to discuss ways to deal with these questions, especially since the President has declared war on poverty and has called for inclusivity. This then begs the question why some people are left out and why some children are malnourished,” said Gawanas.

She said that the sustainable development goals would be adopted in the National Assembly. The sustainable development goals include ending poverty, ending hunger and ensuring health and gender equality, among others.
Comments from Namibians after the workshop were that the country’s ability to produce enough food has become more and more meagre, due to the fact that almost all government resettlement farms do not even produce enough food to feed the inhabitants of the farms, so what about for the rest of the country. Some said the government should spend less time on workshops and more time on appropriate education.

Others said that the outcome of the strategic review is of utmost importance and they wanted to know what are the measures and actions to be taken.

Some also feel there is hunger because there is a total absence in family planning, first and foremost. Then there is hunger because the education system fails to make a real and practical difference in education levels. While others feel there is hunger because the majority of politicians and influential decision makers think only about their own pockets, not the ultimate good of Namibia.

Comments from some of the 12 000 communal crop farmers in the north made it clear that conservation agriculture (CA) is the answer to Namibia’s food insecurity. They say CA and efficient micro-irrigation hold the key to dismal crop harvests in times of drought.

The bleak agriculture situation also resulted in the president of the Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU), Derek Wright, and the executive manager, Sakkie Coetzee, paying a visit to Inge Zaamwani, advisor to President Geingob.

Zaamwani was together with Penny Akwenye, former executive manager of the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia, who is also an advisor to President Geingob.

The aim of the visit was to inform Zaamwani about the challenges the agricultural sector faces.

Zaamwani indicated that President Geingob would in due course meet with commercial farmers to acquaint himself with the circumstances of the lives of the farm workers and other issues.

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