Namibia has set sights on introducing urban and peri-urban farming in quest to push up food production and support small scale agriculture businesses.
The Southern African country has partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the Japanese Embassy in that country to implement a robust plan mearnt to save jobs in agriculture which employs more than 50 percent of the population.
Namibian Minister of Agriculture Water and Land Reform Calle Schlettwein said the plan to introduce urban agriculture at a large scale country wide would breathe life for many informal businesses in the sector as well as strengthen the country’s ability to withstand food shortages from natural calamities.
“It is also worth highlighting, that the majority of smallholder farmers in urban and rural areas does not have access to formal agricultural markets and therefore depend on informal markets to market and sell their produce. However, these markets are often characterized 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 vendor,” he said.
Schlettwein said 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 respectively, as well as to deliver on SDG target 12.3 on reduction of PHLs, they need to address these inefficiencies by directing targeted and dedicated investment towards the development of both hard and softwares of the marketing systems of the agricultural informal sectors of our countries.
According to Schlettwein, the informal sector employs more than 80 % of the working population in Africa while Namibia has more than 57% of the employed population is found in the informal sector.
He said the high percentages are an indication of the urgency that is required for the development of the informal sector in order to sustain and guarantee jobs and income in that sector.
“The Government of the Republic of Namibia recognize 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, “Schlettwein said.
Meanwhile Japanese Ambassador to Namibia, Hideaki Harada said agricultural development is essential for the sustainable development of Namibia.
“It is for that reason that Japan has been providing support to Namibia in poverty reduction and livelihood improvement through agricultural development in the northern regions,” he emphasised.
UNDP representative Alka Bhatia said the project will focus on supporting municipalities in ensuring that the informal sector food markets are provided with improved hygiene and sanitation infrastructure to allow adherence to health safety guidelines by food vendors.
“The resources are catalytic in nature; however, the interventions will boost the country’s capacities of modern agriculture thus contributing to the long run socio-economic benefits such as; ecological through the restoration of biodiversity, achieving green goals; improving individual health through improvement nutrition of vulnerable urban household; economic through employment creation while maximizing reliance of the local food system on local produce” she said.