Namibia Turns to Urban Agriculture…as Food Security Takes Centre-Stage

The agriculture ministry recently launched a special project on urban agriculture, aimed at strengthening Namibia food systems and ensuring recovery from emergencies and disease-related shocks.

Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein, who launched the project on the day, said the country’s food systems could recover from emergencies through the Build Back Better (BBB) programme.

The BBB programme is funded by the government of Japan and aims to support efforts towards strengthening the Namibia food systems to recover from Covid-19 pandemic, emergencies and related shocks.

It also aims to improve the livelihoods of mainly informal vendors and small-scale farmers in urban settings.

According to Schlettwein, the project envisage to achieve these aims through multi-faceted interventions that are focused on the prevention of the further spread of Covid-19 through the provision of hand-washing facilities for informal food markets, urban food production to mitigate humanitarian needs of food security and nutrition, amongst others.

The project is also geared towards addressing the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 by supporting the livelihoods of the vulnerable through income-generating activities.

Urban agriculture, urban farming or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around urban areas. Urban agriculture is also the term used for animal husbandry, aquaculture, urban beekeeping and horticulture. These activities occur in peri-urban areas as well.

According to the World Bank, the informal sector employs more than 80% of the working population in Africa. In Namibia, more than 57% of the employed population is found in the informal sector.

Schlletwein said such high percentages are an indication of the urgency that is required for the development of the informal sector to sustain and guarantee jobs and income in that sector.

“The Government of the Republic of Namibia recognises the important role that small and medium enterprises can play to unlock the economic potential of formal and informal sectors of the economy. It is for this reason that the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has been identified as a priority under pillar 2 of the Harambee Prosperity Plan II on economic advancement,” he said.

Schlettwein said the majority of smallholder farmers in urban and rural areas do not have access to formal agricultural markets and, therefore, depend on informal markets to market and sell their produce. However, these markets are often characterised by poor marketing infrastructure, resulting in high post-harvest losses (PHLs), which, in turn, culminates in the loss of revenue and real income to farmers and vendors.

“If Sub-Saharan countries, including Namibia, are to honour their obligations towards the achievement of SDG 1 and 2 on ending poverty and zero hunger, as well as to deliver on SDG target 12.3 on reduction of PHLs, we need to address these inefficiencies by directing targeted and dedicated investment towards the development of both hard and software of the marketing systems of the agricultural informal sectors of our countries,” the minister said.

Japan ambassador to Namibia Hideaki Harada said the Covid-19 pandemic has made it increasingly necessary for the international community to strengthen cooperation to overcome the ongoing crises hand-in-hand.

He said, in the context of bilateral relations, Japan has initiated and extended multiple support to the Namibian government in its fight against Covid-19.

“In September last year, I had the honour to sign an Exchange of Notes with Hon. [Netumbo] Nandi-Ndaitwah, deputy prime minister and minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the provision of medical equipment to Namibian hospitals. More recently, on 1 March, we signed another Exchange of Notes on emergency Food Aid to mitigate the humanitarian hardship caused by the emergency situation,” he said.

It is estimated that 66% of the world population will be living in cities by 2050. These trends pose a big challenge in the form of meeting the food demand for the increasing world and urban populations.

However, given the limited availability of arable land, technological innovation in agriculture provides the best tool to increase food production to satisfy the new food demands.

This element, guided by the principle of sustainability and supported by responsible investment in agriculture, should form the core of our production policies and strategies.

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