FAO in Namibia

Namibia at a glance

Economic growth and rural poverty context

Namibia is classified as an upper middle-income country with an average per capita income of around USD 4,700 (2012). Overall, in 2012, primary industries accounted for 18.6 % of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which includes agriculture and forestry (4.1%), fishing and fish processing on board (3%) and mining and quarrying (11.5%). The secondary industries accounted for 17.6% (of which 0.3% meat processing and 0.11 fish processing on-shore). The tertiary industries consisting of wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transport and communication, financial services, real estate and business services, community, social and personal service activities and government services, accounted for 56.9 percent of GDP . Namibia is blessed with rich natural resources, a well-developed physical infrastructure and political stability. Namibia’s economy is linked to that of its major trading partner South Africa, although Europe is increasingly becoming the leading market for fish and meat.

Food and Nutrition Security and the Agriculture sector

Namibia is an arid country in south-western Africa with a total land area of 824 268 km2. The country consists of poorly vegetated steppe-like areas dominant in southern and western regions, the Namib Desert in the west along the Atlantic Ocean, the Kalahari Desert in the southeast, extensive savannah and woodlands in the central and north-eastern areas, and subtropical forests in the far north-eastern regions. Five perennial rivers are found along the borders with neighbouring countries; all other rivers are peripheral. Average annual rainfall varies from less than 20 mm on the Atlantic coast to 600 mm in the northeast. Only eight percent of the country receives more than 500 mm in average annually. Most rain falls during the summer and drought is a common phenomenon throughout the country. Low and variable rainfall and the inherently poor soils are major obstacles to optimum agriculture production.

Despite its marginal contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the agriculture sector remains central to the lives of the majority of the population. Directly or indirectly, it supports over 70 percent of the country's population. The sector can be divided into two distinct sub-sectors: the capital intensive, relatively well developed and export oriented commercial sub-sector; and the subsistence-based, high-labour, low-technology communal sub-sector.

The commercial sector covers about 44 per cent of the total land, though it accommodates only 10 per cent of the population, while the communal sector covers 41 per cent of the total land area and accommodates about 60 per cent of the population. Agricultural production – and subsequently income – is low in the subsistence sector for a number of reasons, including limited access to markets.

Food and nutrition security situation

Although the food and nutrition security situation has improved considerably in the last two decades since independence, this is still a top priority issue for the GRN. According to the preliminary findings of a recent assessment carried out following the 2012/13 drought situation, an estimated 330, 925 people are food insecure, 447, 577 moderately food insecure and 859, 898 food secure , with food insecurity more prevalent in the north-western regions mainly due to prevailing chronic poverty and droughts. Main contributing factors to food insecurity and under-nourishment are the high poverty rate, inequality of the income distribution, and the incidence of HIV/AIDS.

Other factors specific to rural areas include: chronic drought and consequent water shortages resulting in death of animals and crop failures, widespread soil erosion and land degradation, lack of agricultural land and isolation from markets, limited income generating opportunities, restrictions on women to access land and resources, and lack of implementation of appropriate policies. Another factor that has contributed to food insecurity has been the loss of indigenous foods and the related indigenous knowledge for preparing those foods. The main food insecure segments of the population consist of resource poor households, women, the youth, the elderly, child orphans, the unemployed and households affected by HIV/AIDS.

Main Agricultural Sector Challenges

Namibia’s agriculture sector is constrained by a variety of challenges. This section outlines some of the main challenges, the Government’s responses to these and the remaining gaps.

• Limited human and institutional capacity

• Updating policy and turning it into practice

• Lack of coordination on food and nutrition security issues

• Weak access to agricultural data by policy makers and farmers

• Low crop productivity

• Livestock health issues

• Low in-land fish production

• Inadequate land use plans

• Inadequate capacity in land valuation

• Constraints in post-settlement support services to farmers on re-settled land

• Constraints in sustainable forestry management

• Constraints in sustainable water resources management

• Weak capacity in processing, marketing and applying quality/safety standards for crop, horticulture and livestock products

• Vulnerability to threats and crises

• Gender inequalities in the agriculture sector