The United Nations Development Programme says (UNDP) Agenda 2030 is the most ambitious effort on development in world history and Namibia’s own Vision 2030 makes it part and parcel of this shared vision of the future of humanity.
Conveying her personal message on the eve of the Africa Drought Conference to be held in Windhoek in August, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative Anita Kiki Gbeho says response aid is no longer enough in a world dramatically affected by climate change.
“In Namibia, rainfall often evaporates before it reaches the ground. Only two percent of the rainfall ends up as surface runoff, and one percent becomes available to recharge groundwater while 97 percent of the rainfall is lost through evaporation,” she stated.
She expressed her concern that critical water shortages in Namibia are impacting harvests and the livestock industry in the agricultural sector, which sustains about 70 percent of the population of some 2.2 million people.
“Continued episodes of drought threaten to unravel the gains made in poverty alleviation and thus drought is an issue that needs collective response,” she noted.
Gbeho stresses that the Namibian Government and people have demonstrated leadership in preparedness and response efforts, saying ordinary citizens respond to neighbours’ needs and government spent some N$127 million last year to assist farmers and communities during times of extreme drought.
“Namibia, with support from the UN is also implementing clear policy directives. These include mainstreaming climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and food and livelihood security into development planning,” she stated.
Challenges, despite these humanitarian efforts, still exist.
“These challenges include the fragile nature of the agricultural sector which employs a large number of the African population, malnutrition, which in southern Africa is exacerbated by HIV/AIDS; or the lack of robust systems for early warning, early action and resilience building,” she said.
Gbeho says there is an urgency to debate “so we can innovate when it comes to enhancing resilience to drought”.
According to her, the government and the people of Namibia must answer the questions of how they promote the use of drought-resistant cereals, how they advance green economy strategies that ensure low carbon emissions and how they develop early warning, monitoring and response information.
She also stressed the importance of making drought insurance schemes more widespread.
She concluded by reminding Africa that more than 52 million people will be food insecure in eastern and southern African countries soon, and that this number will rise as the worst drought in 50 years continues. The situation is so dire that in March this year SADC declared a regional drought disaster.
“The UN will strive to find answers to the burning questions in support of a drought-resilient Africa and drought resilient-Namibia, as there has been relatively few initiatives aiming to address what is a critical issue for Namibia and Africa,” she stressed.
A meeting in September 2015 between President Hage Geingob and the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Monique Barbut agreed that Namibia should take the lead and host an African Drought Conference in 2016.