FAO in Namibia

FAO empowers extension staff to boost food security and combat climate challenges

MAWLR agricultural extension staff who participated in the FFS training program pictured alongside officials from FAO, MAWLR and the Japanese Embassy in Namibia.

Rundu, Namibia – To strengthen agricultural knowledge and support for small-scale farmers in Namibia, 29 agricultural extension staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR) successfully completed a three-week Farmer Field School (FFS) Training of Trainers (ToT) program. The program, jointly hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and MAWLR from 4 to 22 February, was made possible by funding from the Government of Japan.

The FFS initiative marks a crucial step towards bridging the gap between extension officers and the thousands of small-scale farmers they serve. Currently, the ratio of extension officers to farmers stands at a stark 1:1000, posing a major obstacle to effective outreach and support.

"The primary goal of our agricultural extension services is to empower farmers with improved technologies, encourage cooperative development, and facilitate access to information, markets, and infrastructure," said Ndiyayakupi Ngituwamata, Executive Director of MAWLR. Recognizing the need to bridge the current gap, she emphasized the importance of investing in extension staff capacity building.

Over the last two years, FAO has received over USD 1.4 million in funding from the Japanese government for various emergency response and resilience-building projects. Notably, the training is an integral component of the project "Emergency response to mitigate multiple shocks and enhance resilient livelihoods in Namibia," which specifically obtained USD 1.2 million in funding from the Government of Japan.  Through this project, FAO aims to equip extension officers with expertise in implementing the FFS approach, empowering farmers to experiment and analyze outcomes, fostering tailored solutions for their unique challenges.

"This initiative underscores Japan's commitment to enhancing Namibian farming capacities and addressing unemployment," stated Hisao Nishimaki, Ambassador of Japan to Namibia. He highlighted the broader importance of extension services in transforming rural livelihoods, boosting food production, and driving rural development.

Meanwhile FAO reaffirmed its dedication to empowering extension staff. "Extension services are pivotal in driving transformational change," emphasized Qingyun Diao, FAO Representative in Namibia. "FAO is committed to providing complementary approaches like Farmer Field Schools, facilitating knowledge transfer and bridging the digital gap through diverse media platforms."

With a focus on resilience and sustainability, the project also aligns with FAO's flagship Farming System Research and Extension (FSRE) approach. By integrating practical skills with economic and social considerations, the training aims to maximize impact on both individual farmers and rural communities as a whole.

Participants in the program are now tasked with sharing their newly acquired knowledge and skills with farmers across Namibia, potentially unlocking significant increases in food production at both local and national levels.