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View the documentFOOD FOR SECURITY IN ZAMBIA

THE PROBLEM OF FOOD SECURITY IN NAMIBIA

by Wezi Tjaronda

Although Namibia declared in 1995 to eliminate food insecurity and malnutrition by the year 2002, indicators of starvation and nutrition deficiency persist.

In the declaration, signed by the country's President, Sam Nuyoma, is specified:"... the country pledged to make all efforts to eliminate before the end of this decade famine and famine related deaths, starvation and nutritional deficiency diseases in communities affected by natural disasters and to reduce the incidences of underweight children from the 1992 level of 26 percent to 17 percent." Further: "We view with deepest concern the unacceptable fact that many Namibians still do not have access to enough food to meet their basic daily needs for nutritional wellbeing."

Jemaije Mujoro, a development Planner with the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Rural Development pilot projects dealing with food security in some five regions of the country namely: Kara, Hardap, Caprivi, Kavango and Ohangwena have shown that little progress has been made to attain the goals of the declaration.

"People are just not serious and the situation remain the same. We do not see much difference", Mujoro said. Kavango and Caprivi, which are called the future "bread basket of the country" due to their fertile soils and good rains, have the potential to feed the whole country if people are serious with food production. Unlike the Kavango notes a dependency syndrome on people as even teachers are sometimes listed amongst recipients of relief food, the northern central part "people are very hard working and projects kick off quickly".

The "lazy" attitude of the other group has made them so dependent that "they even say why do we need to work if government can supply us with what we need". In the southern regions of Karas and Hardarp where the Ministry in conjunction with Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has projects on small stock farming and vegetable gardens, a family of 20 normally survives on one meal per day because only one member of the family is employed.

Apart from these regions, people of the san origin popularly known as the bushmen, are also classified as being food insecure because of their nomadic way of life. "They don't have anything to live on, and they normally pick up food from the jungle, which according to Mujoro makes it difficult to determine if they face hunger or not. Apart from "laziness" which has contributed to food insecurity in Kavango, the general security of the region bordering the war-torn Angola where the rebel Unita movement has been fighting government forces for the last decades has had an effect on food security.

In May this year during crop assessment, it was found out that people's cattle and crop harvest were stolen by suspected banbits. Most farmers in Kavango use cattle for ploughing and cultivate alluvial fertile soils along the riverbanks. The effect of war in Angola has devastating implications to food production as farmers often lose their needed ploughing power due to banditry activities. To illustrate the fragile security situation, a small stock which was to have started, was halted and adds the development planner, the same applies to the other projects which can not proceed due to uncertainty in the region.

Although Average income figures place Namibia as a well off country in Africa, indications are that 13 percent of all household spend almost 80 percent of their income on food and that 27 percent are underweight, the food and nutrition policy for Namibia suggest that the country "has a major problem of household food insecurity and malnutrition".

Wezi Tjaronda is a Feature Writer at New Era in Windhoek, Namibia.