More than 27 presentations were made in the plenary sessions from across the world while nine side events were also held, on drought management, before over 400 delegates finalised the Windhoek Drought Declaration. The declaration on drought was birthed during last week’s first ever African Drought Conference that was held in Windhoek.
International and local experts from governments, civil society organizations, UN agencies, academia and the private sector complimented the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, for Namibia’s efforts in hosting the conference. The main focus of the conference was a White Paper Strategic Framework document for drought risk management and enhancing resilience in Africa, and the development of a Windhoek Declaration for Enhancing Resilience to Drought. The white paper, with its different thematic areas, was presented, deliberated on and further developed by African delegates during the technical segment of the conference. An open-ended working group was established, involving African delegates and civil society representatives, to further develop and give recommendations for the strategic framework document.
“In addition, various experts made presentations and interventions on different aspects of drought to enrich the white paper document,” Shifeta noted.
The strategic framework contains six main pillars: Drought Policy and Governance for Drought Risk Management (National, Regional and Global); Drought Monitoring, Response and Early Warning; Drought Vulnerability and Impact Assessment; Drought Mitigation, Preparedness and Mitigation; Knowledge Management and Drought Awareness; Reducing Underlying Factors for Drought and Cross-Cutting Issues, such as Capacity and Development, Youth Empowerment, Reducing Gender and Income Inequality.
Shifeta said it is expected that the framework will guide African countries, including Namibia, to develop and implement national and sub-regional drought policies, which will make them more prepared and resilient to drought. The key focus of these policies will be to encourage a more pro-active approach to drought management and preparedness at the national and sub-regional level.
“In terms of Namibia, I am confident that this strategic framework will guide and assist us greatly in the current process we have embarked upon to review our National Drought Policy and Strategy of 1997. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Office of the Prime Minister have co-hosted this conference with us, and I am sure it has been a valuable learning experience for all of us,” he observed.
The second key outcome from the conference has been the adoption of a declaration, which commits African countries to operationalising the strategic framework through a number of practical activities, which will ensure that this strategic framework will be implemented and will make a difference in the lives of rural communities and farmers. He stressed the importance of future African drought conferences to review progress in the implementation of the strategic framework document.
“This regional framework is the first of its kind on any continent and as Namibia and Africa we are proud to have assumed such a pro-active approach. I applaud the African Union Commission and its programmes, including the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), for its all-out support and commitment to this process.
“During this week and the Third African Drylands Week, we have learned of many African initiatives on sustainable land management and enhancing resilience to drought. We have been able to strengthen collaboration with our brothers and sisters from the Sahel and Saharan regions, who face similar challenges to us as arid countries. I look forward to engaging further with the African Union to extend initiatives such as the Great Green Wall Initiative for the Sahel and Sahara to Namibia and Southern Africa,” he concluded.