Query: What is the progress regarding the Ohangwena Aquifer and what is being done at the moment to develop this aquifer?
Response: Investigations to determine aquifer yield are ongoing. The main aim of the study is to determine the aquifer size and how much can be abstracted sustainably.
Query: What is the size of the aquifer and if it was to be developed what benefits is it going to bring for Namibia?
Response: The investigation of the deep-seated groundwater reservoir ‘Ohangwena II Aquifer’ revealed a stored volume of freshwater of about 20 billion cubic metres (m³) on Namibian territory. It stretches about 75km from Ondobe Constituency towards the east and about 40 km from the Angolan border to the south.
Groundwater age measurements through isotope analyses show that the water infiltrated long ago. Observations of water levels, however, indicate that active recharge takes place. The recharge rate is the most important factor in order to manage the resource on a sustainable basis. The determination of the sustainable yield of the aquifer and the conceptualisation of water abstraction scenarios and their effect on the resource are the focus of ongoing project activities.
Currently a production well field in the town of Eenhana is under development, together with Namwater, delivering a maximum yield of about 100m³ per hour. The monitoring of the aquifer’s reaction of this abstraction will show the way forward for the future potential of this unique resource.
Once we are sure of sustainable yield, we can start developing infrastructure and estimate the cost thereof. There have been estimates, but we will only know for certain once the aquifer is developed and supply starts. Monitoring of aquifer movement will have to continue thus it is important to have a good monitoring network.
Query: How important is the establishment of a meat processing plant in Bukalo. What will be its benefits? Also what are the foreseen starting dates of the construction of the meat processing plant?
Response: A meat processing plant in a Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) infected zone where livestock marketing has been affected by FMD outbreaks will be very important in the sense that the end product will no longer be fresh beef products, but the plant will see further processing (for example by cooking, by smoking, steaming, salting, etc.) of the fresh beef into various products, including smoked sausages, cooked meat, biltong or even canned beef.
Processing raw beef into those different products will further make the marketed processed product more safe in terms of elimination of any FMD virus that may still be in slaughtered raw beef, thus on top of what is currently being done to produce safe meat products in Zambezi, processing will give confidence to other countries who would want to buy product slaughtered in Zambezi.
In other words, this will complete the commodity-based trading which will see the end product being able to be marketed anywhere in the world. Lastly, it should be noted that the ministry does not currently have a specific starting date for the construction of the meat processing plant, as this will depend on the availability of funds.
Query: Does government have any policy in place to protect local farmers from genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?
Response: Yes, government in addition to the Biosafety Act of 2006, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, has in place the Namibia Food Safety Policy, as well as the National Agriculture Policy.
Query: What percentage of genetically modified organisms is allowed in agriculture products?
Response: Currently the National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST) is busy annexing the genetically modified organisms regulations. Once this is done the regulation will indicate the GMO percentage/threshold in agriculture products.
Query: Does government educate farmers on the needs to protect their products from competing genetically modified organisms foods?
Response: Public awareness is at the top of the agenda (Cartagena Protocol Article 23 and Biosafety Act of 2006). However, we anticipate that the public awareness related to dealing with GMO/LMO products will intensify once the Biosafety Act is fully implemented.
Query: How has the proliferation of genetically modified organisms in the Namibian market affected local agriculture producers?
Response: Firstly, Namibia and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry as a custodian of agriculture products do not grow GMO crops. The issue of Genetically Modified Organisms/ Living Modified Organisms (GMO/LMO) related production will only be clear once the Biosafety Act of 2006 is fully implemented.
Take note that there might be GMO-derived products in the market, but these are market issues. Although the ministry is one of the main stakeholders the Bio-Safety Act that regulates GMO/LMO products resides with the ministry responsible for Science and Technology.
Margaret Kalo, senior public relations officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org