As you know the country has been affected by the natural disasters in the form of drought over the past three years, and floods, experienced during this rainy season. Mitigation measures have been put in place, among others, targeted food assistance and non-food assistance to over 700,000 affected communities facing survival and livelihood protection deficits caused by severe drought conditions.
Of the 700,000 people, 15, 774 beneficiaries are for the //Kharas Region.
Similarly, the current flood and natural disaster related incidents affected over 1,500 people across the country, the community of Berseba included. I will also, during my visit here familiarise myself with how government support is being implemented in the aftermath of the devastating storm that affected the community. Overall, government is looking at strengthening governance and institutions to manage disaster risk, investing in economic, social, cultural and environmental resilience in order to enhance preparedness for effective response and recovery.
While 16.5 percent of Namibians resided in urban areas in 1990, this ratio has grown to 49.4 percent in 2016. At this rate, 65 percent of the Namibian population will reside in urban areas by 2030.
By way of comparison, the average rate of urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa is 38 percent.
There are many push and pull factors responsible for this worrying phenomenon. Push factors may refer to natural disasters negatively affecting agricultural output, poor living conditions and public amenities and mechanisation in primary sectors.
Pull factors include the hope of especially young men and women in search of better – perceived or real – social and economic opportunities in towns and urban settlements, the attraction of urban facilities and way of life, and better healthcare and education.
Some governments have tried to control and restrict migration out of rural areas, concerned that it would lead to overcrowded cities. But such approaches do not form part of Namibia’s policies.
While urbanisation brings along development and other good opportunities, it is also associated with health challenges, such as overcrowding, pollution, poor sanitation, unhealthy lifestyles – and all these factors contribute to poor health for urban dwellers.
Urbanisation also creates major imbalances in terms of infrastructure delivery and it causes the conundrum of whether infrastructure should follow people or vice versa, which leads to the dilemma of where to target infrastructure development.
In our Vision 2030, we agreed to minimise the disparity between rural and urban living by providing essential social services and by promoting the development of the rural population through diversification of economic activities and developing rural transport infrastructure and communication, and social services.
Today we know that we should not view rural and urban development as two different development alternatives. It is not one or the other – no, they are closely interconnected, and we need to examine rural development in the context of the transformation of rural areas and the wider economy. In fact, Vision 2030 calls for partnerships between urban and rural societies.
At the core of the rural development process is coordination in terms of assessing the development needs, integrated planning, collaborative implementation and joint monitoring and evaluation. This is essential to optimise its efficiency and effectiveness.
Government adopted the National Rural Development Policy in 2011 to guide national efforts towards the adoption of efficient and effective, equitable and sustainable approaches to rural development. I urge all stakeholders to take heed of their roles and responsibility under this policy to ensure its full realization.
We need our rural communities to be in good health, and to make optimal contribution to the national economic development. Our people in rural areas, including our traditional leaders, should become our agents of inclusive transformation. However, I need to stress that there is an urgent need for unity among traditional leaders and between traditional communities.
Our traditional leaders are empowered to effectively contribute towards national development. In accordance with the Traditional Authorities Act of 2000, these leaders are required to uphold, promote, protect and preserve the culture, language, tradition and traditional values of their traditional community. We also expect them to promote the moral values and help reverse erosion of moral fibre of society.
Our traditional leaders can assist law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime. In this regard, the government provides support to traditional leaders and their communities and promotes the establishment of community courts in accordance with the provisions of the Community Courts Act of 2003 to apply customary law, norms, rules of procedure, traditions and usages of the traditional community for offences committed in their area of jurisdiction.
In conclusion, having experienced several spells of natural disasters, we need to considerably strengthen our disaster risk management capacity with the ultimate aim of promoting sustainable management of our environment and the protection of our people. In this regard, quantitative disaster risk assessments are an important basis for us to better understand disaster risks in our country, and to develop effective risk management and risk financing solutions.
Finally, we are preparing for the national dialogue on land issues scheduled for later this year. It is crucial that we debate this sensitive subject with the aim of designing policy approaches that ensure we find solutions to challenges that currently hamper the success of our land reform process, and that enable us to optimally use our land to eradicate poverty and inequities and to support the goals of a prosperous and united Namibia.
We can also in unity deal with the issue of genocide negotiations with the Federal Republic of Germany. As your government we assure you that we shall ensure that justice is done for our people on this issue and we also assure you the doors of your government offices remain open to all who may want to consult us on this issue and who may want to come on board the structure that we have put in place to coordinate, so let’s embrace each other and move together on the handling of this issue on our side.
I have been apprised of the challenges you are faced with and the initiatives that you are proposing to deal with the challenges. I shall share the information shared with me in Cabinet so that we can see how we work together to deal with the challenges facing your community. Through HPP and NDP we hope to bring about inclusive growth and development. NEEEF is also aiming at this.
• Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is the prime minister of Namibia. This is an edited version of a speech she delivered at the sixth festival of he /Hai-/Khaua Traditional Authority in Berseba recently.