FAO in Namibia

Towards a sustainable bioeconomy for Namibia

Natural resources such as the marula fruit (Sclerocarya birrea) has the potential to contribute to Namibia's development efforts through the bioeconomy. ©FAO/P. Tobias

Namibia validates her National Bioeconomy Strategy for the period 2023 – 2028 as it gears towards innovation, conservation, and the sustainable utilization of its biological resources.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the National Commission for Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) recently hosted the final validation workshop for Namibia’s National Bioeconomy Strategy (2023 – 2026).

FAO and NCRST, a coordinating agency under the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, have been working together for the past three years to develop Namibia’s Bioeconomy Strategy. The Strategy is a result of the “Towards Sustainable Bioeconomy Guidelines”, a project which FAO is implementing globally.

The global project aims to support FAO member countries in developing coherent and sustainable bio-economy programmes, including strategy development. implementation and monitoring, towards a more sustainable agrifood system. In Namibia, the overall strategy development entailed policy stocktaking and analysis to establish the baseline of the bioeconomy landscape through stakeholder engagement and workshop organisation, It was developed together with the inputs of the National Bioeconomy Multisectoral Working Group, composed of nine government ministries, private sector and non-governmental organisations, public enterprises, and academic institutions. It also seeks synergies with other strategies such as the National biodiversity Strategy and action plan.

Given the importance of the agricultural sector and the use of biomass to produce energy, food, feed and fibre, the current Strategy consists of a framework of programmes and initiatives addressing multifaceted challenges identified as critical by taking advantage of spillover benefits from other sectors, such as  agriculture, manufacturing and health.

Bioeconomy for socio-economic progression

Speaking on behalf of NCRST’s Acting CEO, Albertina Ngurare, Dr. Nhlanhla Lupahla, NCRST General Manager for Research Science Technology and Innovation, noted that the bioeconomy represents the economic potential of harnessing the power of bioscience, using Namibia's renewable biological resources to replace fossil resources in innovative products, processes and services.

“The [bioeconomy] Strategy targets enhancing opportunities for circularity, such as converting biowaste and agricultural residues into useable products such as biofertilizers  as well as improving the efficiency of the agro- and bio-processing industries, and providing feedstock for novel biobased products,” he said.

In Namibia, the promotion of the national bioeconomy has been taken up as a strategy to facilitate sustainable and inclusive development, Dr. Lupahla therefore also highlighted that the Strategy will ensure that Namibia strives towards sustainable industrialisation, job creation and green growth.

“Namibia faces a myriad of challenges, including high poverty and unemployment; the country’s bioeconomy holds massive potential to address and eliminate these challenges,” he remarked.

Bioeconomy for food and nutrition security

Meanwhile, the FAO Country Representative in Namibia, Ms. Farayi Zimudzi, said the development of an economy based on biomass resources offers a unique opportunity to comprehensively address interconnected challenges such as food and nutrition insecurity.

“The bioeconomy is a cross-sectoral approach that brings different solutions to the agrifood system to improve resilience and added value,” said Ms. Zimudzi.

The FAOR further noted that the development of the bioeconomy strategy is a step in the right direction for Namibia to transition towards better production, better nutrition and a better environment to ensure a better life as advocated for by FAO’s new Strategic Framework for the period 2022 to 2031.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us to rethink our approaches and redouble our efforts in ensuring that all sectors contribute meaningfully to safeguarding livelihoods, especially those of the most vulnerable persons in our society.”

In conclusion Ms. Zimudzi reaffirmed FAO’s support towards the Government of Namibia to help the country to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

“FAO stands ready, alongside its stakeholders and partners, to support the Government of Namibia to attain the Strategy’s Vision of achieving ‘a vibrant bioeconomy that drives innovation, conservation, and sustainable utilization of biological resources’”.

Echoing Ms. Zimudzi, Ms. Marta Gomez San Juan, Senior bioeconomy expert at FAO, noted that “Namibia's is taking leapfrogging steps towards a sustainable bioeconomy”. She also highlighted that "Namibia has been an example for the bioeconomy community of inclsuive multi-stakeholder consultation at sub-national level. The implementation and monitoring of the Strategy will be a key milestone in ensuring that none is left behind in the bioeconomy development, including investments in bio-innovations". She also mentioned that Namibia is one of the champion countries of FAO's programme priority area on ‘Bioeconomy for sustainbale food and agriculture’ that will run until 2031.

Bioeconomy for sustainability

Namibia is a net importer of goods. Mining, fisheries and agriculture are the pillars of Namibia’s small yet open economy. Over the years, the country has experienced severe drought affecting both the agricultural sector and the economy.

As part of the country's efforts towards economic transformation and advancement, a sustainable bioeconomy has been part of national development plans, strategies and policies. The comprehensive National Bioeconomy Strategy (2023-2028) aims to present a crosscutting approach to addressing food insecurity, the impacts of climate change and natural resource scarcity.

It is hoped that the Bioeconomy Strategy will therefore set the scene for employing programmes and initiatives that will help Namibia to harness her biological resources potential in a focused and sustainable manner while contributing meaningfully to the national economy through employment creation and the alleviation of hunger and poverty.