Some 729 000 people in the rural areas have been affected by this year’s drought and this account for about 57 percent of the rural population. Of these, about 596 000 are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
In particular, 33 120 people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance out of the 88 300 people living in rural areas of Kunene Region, Agricultural Minister John Mutorwa revealed on Tuesday. Speaking at the official commemoration of World Food Day at Khorixas in the Kunene Region, he said the figures present an urgent need for us as a nation to devise appropriate strategies to enhance resilience and ensure tour agricultural activities are not heavily hampered by drought.
“With the prevailing drought conditions our country is unable to produce sufficient food and this poses a challenge, especially on government, to avail sufficient funds for humanitarian assistance and ensure that the lives of our people are not threatened by drought,” he noted.
Mutorwa said it is a well-known fact that agriculture is the backbone of Namibia and plays a critical role. Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less on the same area of land and use natural resources more wisely. It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives, including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.
The minister said by adopting sustainable agricultural practices tailored to local contexts, farmers – especially the smallholders – can make considerable productivity and income gains, while increasing the resilience of their agricultural activities and income to extreme and variable weather conditions. Adaptation strategies, such as these, are vital to combating poverty and hunger in a changing climate, he noted.
Government is pursuing initiatives, programmes and projects aimed at building resilience among farmers, who are severely affected by drought, he assured attendants.
World Food Day fall on October 16 annually and is celebrated around the world to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The day is aimed at bringing to the fore the plight of all those who are starving and to create awareness and understanding of food security and nutrition issues across the globe. In our quest to attain food security and nutrition, World Food Day is also aimed at celebrating the commitments made by governments in various regions in response to the call of the UN secretary general to work towards zero hunger in the world.
The theme for the 2016 World Food Day commemoration is ‘Climate is changing. Food and Agriculture must too’. The theme indicates the close interrelationship between climate change and the agricultural practices, which should be adapted to ensure that food security is not compromised by climate change. This means that as the climate evolves agriculture must adapt and become resilient, productive and sustainable to feed the growing global population, which is set to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, as per 2013 UN predictions.
“Our country has suffered and continues to experience recurrent drought. These occurrences are a very serious phenomenon, which is threatening food security across the country. The current drought has affected almost each and every region in the country and Kunene region is not an exception, in fact, this is one of the most drought stricken region in the country,” he noted.
As part of the initiative, government has implemented the Dry land Crop Production Programme, among others, which aims at the provision of subsidised production inputs and services (draft animals, fertilisers, seeds, ripping, weeding, planting and ploughing services) to farmers in the crop-growing regions, namely Zambezi, Kavango West, Kavango East, Oshikoto, Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati, Kunene (northern part), Omaheke and Otjozondjupa.
The programme also aims to counter and reverse land degradation and adapt to climate change/variability through the adoption of conservation agriculture as a basis for sustainable crop production and improved food security at both national and farm – including smallholder – levels.
Mutorwa also presented a few tools and agricultural essential equipment worth N$30 000 to small agricultural projects and individual farmers, including Mokutura Gardening from Epupa Constituency, Tara Neho Gardening from Opuwo Rural Constituency, Itumbapo Gardening from Opuwo Urban Constituency, Marbasen Karakul Farming and Farm Diema from Khorixas Constituency.