By Hilary Mare
THE majority of the people in Africa at large and Namibia in particular acquire their livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture and as the dominant production sector it is important to realise that agriculture not only remains important for national economic growth but also for job creation and poverty reduction.
Despite the fact that Government has affirmed agriculture as the basic engine to foster economic growth, it is unfortunate that those pronouncements have often lacked a clear economic policy support or guidance. A review of the agricultural sector during the last decade reveals that the region has been facing perpetual staple food deficit, and that Namibia is become a net staple food importer.
Essentially so this affects the trade balance and the overall balance of payments in Namibia adversely. It also deprives the country the scarce foreign exchange which could be better spent on the provision of essential services such as health and education.
Looking at a report published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) – the OECD FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025, which had a special focus on ‘Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa’ – it is vital to note that stable policies combined with investments could improve the future of agriculture in Namibia.
The report identified sub-Saharan Africa as one of the most dynamic regions of the world, where agriculture continues to play an important role in development, highlighting how cash crops offer alternative sources of income. It called for a holistic approach to recognise the inter-linkages between rural poverty, food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, healthy eco-systems and climate change. Essentially and particularly for Namibia we have to realise that over the 10-year outlook period, the demand growth for food is expected to slow progressively. Global population growth, the main driver of demand increases, is declining, while income growth in emerging economies is projected to be weaker. At the same time, consumers, especially in populous emerging economies, show a declining propensity to spend income gains on consuming more basic foodstuffs. Demand for meat, fish and dairy products will grow relatively strongly, inducing additional demand for feed, in particular from coarse grains and protein meals. Demand for agricultural commodities for biofuel production is projected to stagnate due to the lower energy prices and more conservative biofuel policies in several countries. More importantly so is also the notion that undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia inclusive remains high, and in 10 years the region will account for more than one third of the global total of undernourished, compared with just over a quarter today. Many countries will be confronted with a complex burden of undernourishment (too few calories), obesity, and micronutrient deficiency and for this reason it is not too late for Namibia to adopt sound policies that can help sustain and grow the agricultural sector.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015