Windhoek - Namibia is currently experiencing the worst drought in 90 years, a situation that is threatening food security and has severely shrunk job opportunities in the agriculture sector, a senior government official said last week.
Speaker of Parliament Peter Katjavivi, however, said his government was committed to finding ways of implementing smart agriculture. He was addressing parliamentarians and non-governmental organisations on the current state of sustainable natural resource management in Namibia meant to find ways of unlocking a bio-economic potential.
Katjavivi said worse to Namibia’s cause was the fact that economy had been under severe pressure for more than two years, creating and challenging downturn.
"An increasing population relying on natural resources in the northern communal areas has caused many environmental challenges, which interact also with each other. Some of the impacts of land degradation include reduction in agricultural productivity, reduction in water quality and quantity, as well as soil erosion and increased flooding,” he said.
“The degradation of land is caused by both natural as well as human-induced factors. In many areas of Namibia, the effects of human activities such as overgrazing are quite visible, for example bush encroachment, soil erosion and salinization.”
Katjavivi also added that there was a need to find ways to deal with natural calamities as more than 60% of the population in Namibia depended directly or indirectly on agriculture, forestry as well as freshwater fishery to maintain their livelihoods.
He said given these challenges, the concept of sustainable management of natural resources appealed to most or all of the country’s citizens.
Agriculture industry under severe pressure
While the government has its worries, the Agriculture Bank of Namibia said Namibia's employment opportunities from the agriculture sector had heavily shrunk from 34 percent in 2012 to 23 percent to date.
Chief executive officer of Agribank, Sakaria Nghikembua, said despite heavy investments in the agriculture sector, the contribution of the sector to total gross domestic product had also gone down while reducing the number of people employable in the sector.
He said Namibia needed to adopt smart agriculture as a way of boosting performance in the sector as well as create more employment opportunities.
"Indications are that although agriculture remains the highest employer in the country, its contribution to employment creation and contribution to the total economy has gone down," he said.
Nghikembua added that Namibia also needed to find latest trends of creating agriculture related industries in manufacturing and food processing.
He said Namibia stood to benefit immensely from an improved agriculture performance.
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Alpheus !Naruseb, also raised alarm over the effects of climate change in his country saying these had put food security under severe threat.
He said of late Namibia had been experiencing both flash floods and drought, making it difficult for government to plan properly on food production.
"The Namibian government has taken up programmes to help farmers through provision of farming implements and training to promote conservation agriculture. This is meant to create resilience of farmers in dealing with challenges of climate change," he said.
!Naruseb said there was a need for Namibia to take a paradigm shift from old farming methods and adopt latest horticulture and agriculture methods.
He said his government, together with development partners, had pumped in financial resources in agriculture to curtail effects of climate change as well as improve productivity.
He added that state-owned Environmental Investment Fund was also playing a significant role in assisting farmers to find ways to deal with challenges of climate change.