From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Helmuth K. Angula (Minister for Agriculture, Water and Rural Development of the Republic of Namibia)

Allow me, Mr Chairman to thank the people and the Government of Italy for the warm and kind hospitality they accorded since our arrival of this inside but breathtaking, City of Rome. Equally, our congratulations to His Excellency the Director-General and his staff for the excellent preparations of this Summit.

My task Excellencies is to read out to this august assembly the statement of His Excellency Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia on the occasion of the World Summit Food: five years later.

Mr Chairman, The Director-General of FAO, Your Excellencies, Heads of States and Governments, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to address Your Excellencies on the occasion of the World Food Summit: five years later, on behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of Namibia.

In line with the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action, the government of the Republic of Namibia has realized that food security is a cross-cutting issue that need to be addressed by all concerned. Food security has been placed centrally within the remit of all government Ministries in our country.

It is recognized all over the world that the food security of the people especially in the rural areas, where agriculture play a predominant economic role, will be compromised if they are not allowed access to one of the main factors of production, land. My government in the area of land reform made significant progress. It is estimated that 243 000 people in Namibia are in need of resettlement. This figure is approximately 14 percent of the population.

These are people from over-crowded communal areas, ex farm labourers, unemployed and landless people. This situation is a result of the past apartheid colonial legacy, which forced people from their productive land and lumped them together on marginal areas.

Water is life. My government has recognized that water is an essential ingredient for agricultural production and food security. The Namibian government has in the past five years continued, and still continues, to allocate a significant size of its development funds to the development of the country's surface and groundwater resources. Clean drinking water is being provided to both rural and urban residents and irrigation infrastructures are also being developed. For further details, we refer Your Excellencies to our Country Report.

There is, however, a high cost associated with water provision. In order to ensure the sustainable provision of water, the government has commenced with the implementation of the Community-Based Management of Rural Water Supply. Under this strategy, communities are expected to gradually take over the operational and maintenance cost of their water sources. The policy promotes the spirit of ownership of water resources, which encourage the sustainable utilization and management of the resources.

Livestock production contributes significantly to my country's agricultural output and export. In order for our livestock and livestock products to be allowed access to international markets, the government had, and continues, with the kind assistance of our development partners, to invest in animal health infrastructure, development of skills and provision of services. This includes harmonizing our major animal disease control measures with our neighbouring countries, as well as the regulation of livestock movement across our common borders.

Crop production continues to receive the attention of my government. Extension services are provided to small-scale farmers, who produce the two main cereal crops of maize and pearl millet. These two crops, in addition to livestock rearing, have insured the food security of over half the population of Namibia over the centuries. In the past five years, nobody died from hunger in Namibia, thanks to my government's intervention.

Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa. The country's climate is unpredictable and droughts occur randomly. Crop failures and livestock mortality is usually the consequence. These situations impact heavily and negatively on the food security of the people. The government formulated a Drought Policy, which is implemented in collaboration with relevant stakeholder, namely farmers through their associations, the private sector and other non-governmental actors. The main tool of the Drought Policy is the Drought Fund. In addition to the Government's contribution, the stakeholders will contribute to the Fund in good years and make use of those savings in bad years.

Despite all the efforts being made, the unpredictable weather continues to take its toll on the agricultural sector and Namibia, like its southern African neighbours, is currently facing a drought and a subsequent food crisis as a result of the poor 2001/2002 rain season. I would therefore like to make an urgent appeal to the international community for assistance in this situation if we are to avoid hunger and loss of human life.

One of the main challenges facing agricultural production and, therefore, the food security of the people is the prevalence of HIV/aids. The pandemic continues to affect and reduce the labour that is necessary for agricultural production. Although no concrete statistical data exist as yet in Namibia, indications are that the disease is negatively affecting the productivity and therefore the output from the sector.

Mr Chairman, Namibia is actively taking part in the international trade negotiation arena. The country is an active member of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) as well as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

The country also maintains strong relations with the EU and expects these relations to continue beyond the Cotonou Agreement. This is because we believe that the country's access to fair and conducive trade relations will enhance the fight against poverty and food insecurity. Namibia would like to express its concern about the continuous subsidies given to farmers in developed countries. These subsidized commodities end up on the international market, which affect our farmers adversely. We have experienced the negative effects of these subsidies and wish to call on the developed countries to reduce and eventually phase out all subsidies. This will create a level playing fields for farmers.

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