FAO in Namibia

Updating legislation for a safer, more sustainable agricultural sector

The revision of legislations includes the aim to align pesticide legislation with international standards and guidelines for safer and eco-friendly practices. ©FAO

Windhoek, Namibia - A diverse group of stakeholders gathered in Windhoek from December 5-8, 2023 for a crucial validation workshop on draft bills aimed at modernizing Namibia's legal frameworks for pesticides, fertilizers, plant health, and animal feed. Organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR), the workshop marked a significant step towards ensuring a safer, more sustainable agricultural sector for the country.

During the workshop's opening, Deidre Januarie, Deputy Director at the Directorate of Agricultural Research and Development at MAWLR, expressed gratitude to the participants for their attendance. She also acknowledged FAO for its invaluable financial and technical support, while emphasizing the limitations of existing laws in adequately regulating vital areas such as environmental protection, human health, and trade facilitation.

In tandem with Januarie's remarks, Qingyun Diao, FAO Representative in Namibia, underscored the project's significance in attaining food safety and security. She emphasized that the project's outcomes would contribute to achieving the “Four Betters” in Namibia, aligning the country's institutional and legal framework with international instruments related to pesticides, fertilizers, plant health, and animal feed.

The workshop, attended by representatives from government agencies, academia, industry, farmers, and other key players, was a crucial component of the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project titled 'Support to the revision of legislation regulating plant quarantine and the management of fertilizers, animal feed, and agricultural remedies.' The focus of the workshop was on the revisions of the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies, and Stock Remedies Act (1947) and the Plant Quarantine Act (2008).

Addressing outdated frameworks

Namibia, as a World Trade Organization (WTO) member, is obliged to adhere to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (WTO-SPS) Agreement, and as a participant in the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and member of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), it must align the Namibia Plant Quarantine Act of 2008 with the updated IPPC standards.

The 2019 International Code of Conduct for Sustainable Use and Management of Fertilizers (Fertilizer Code) provides guidelines for sustainable fertilizer use, recommending practices like nutrient recycling and agronomic and land management for soil health enhancement. While the Fertilizer Code is not obligatory, Namibia is advised to implement its recommendations to support the country's 2030 vision and SDGs. Recognizing outdated national legislation, Namibia is reviewing and aligning it with the Fertilizer Code, leading to the revision of the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies, and Stock Remedies Act 36 of 1947.

Despite having numerous pieces of legislation for chemical management, Namibia faces challenges due to the fragmented nature of these laws. To address this, there is a need to develop framework legislation for pesticides management, bringing it in line with international codes of conduct and multilateral environmental agreements such as the Stockholm, Rotterdam, and Basel conventions.

As part of this comprehensive project, initial assessments identified gaps in existing legal frameworks for pesticides, fertilizers, animal feeds, and plant health. This led to the development of draft bills based on recommendations from gap assessments. A crucial milestone was reached in March 2023 with extensive stakeholder consultations in Keetmanshoop and Rundu, resulting in separate draft bills for the management of pesticides, fertilizers, plant health, and animal feeds. This strategic evolution aims to strengthen Namibia's regulatory landscape, fostering a safer and more sustainable agricultural sector.

Strengthening regulations for improved outcomes

The workshop featured insightful virtual presentations from FAO’s Development Law Service (LEGN) unit about the legal aspects of feed regulation and pesticides licensing. This sparked keen interest and prompted engaging discussions among participants.

Breakout groups, organized according to individual interests and expertise, scrutinized specific sections of the draft bills, resulting in valuable feedback for their refinement. The consultants provided clarifications, and stakeholders reached agreements on key points.

Following the presentations, the workshop validated the drafts on Pesticides, Fertilizers, and Plant Health, with plans to integrate agreed-upon comments and recommendations. Moreover, strong support emerged for continuing efforts to enhance the draft Animal Feed Bill, underscoring a commitment to ongoing improvement aligned with stakeholder insights and expertise.

Addressing key concerns and planning the way forward

One key point of discussion was the scope of animal feed regulation, considering whether it should encompass all animals including bees. Additionally, incorporating the valuable traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples aligned with the Nagoya Protocol emerged as a crucial aspect to be addressed. Concerns regarding cost implications and responsibility sharing for implementing the new bills were also raised, requiring further clarification.

Moving forward, the finalization of the Pesticides, Fertilizers, and Plant Health Bills will incorporate stakeholder feedback and be submitted to the government for further actions according to the national legislative process. Further work on the Draft Animal Feed Bill, as well as development of new regulatory instruments to support the implementation of the bills once adopted is planned, potentially through a new TCP, focusing on finalization and capacity building for relevant stakeholders.