Namibia Successfully Hosts Her National Food Systems Dialogues
25 August 2021
Namibia recently held her National Food Systems Dialogues in preparation for the United Nations Food Systems Summit scheduled for next month September 2021.
The virtual dialogues commenced on 29 July and ended on 16 August, encompassed nine unique sessions with various thematic topics all meant to cross-examine how Namibia can move towards achieving more inclusive and sustainable food systems.
Over 500 participants from diverse backgrounds, including members of the public and stakeholders from both the private and public sectors such as parastatals, higher education institutions, regulatory bodies, research institutions, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, amongst others, joined in the Dialogues.
Noteworthy dialogues include the inaugural dialogue held under the theme: “Production systems and environmental sustainability in Namibia”, during which close to 150 participants engaged in conversations around identifying best approaches for food agricultural practices while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the environment.
This was later followed by another equally thought-provoking dialogue held under the theme, “Mitigating issues for food systems transformation and building nutritional, social and economic resilience” in which participants strongly highlighted the need to consider agriculture as being much more than just the production of raw materials.
Calls were later made by participants to shift focus towards critical issues hampering the sector from reaching its full potential such as climate change, lack of value addition and agro processing, and minimal investment in the sector.
“Food Production, Consumption, and Processing Systems in Namibia: Fostering Sustainable, Healthy, Accessible and Nutritious diets” is another thematic area of focus that formed part of the wider Dialogues during which participants dissected the main problems affecting production, consumption and processing within the country’s local food systems.
Issues such as high cost of basic food items, high unemployment and poverty rate hunger were identified. Solutions presented by participants to counter these issues included the need to improve markets, infrastructure and institutions, promote food systems as fertile grounds for income generation and economic expansion etc., as some of the ways to bolster food production and promote access to healthy and nutritious diets.
A day thereafter, the Regional Consultations on Food Systems Dialogues, were held under the theme “Fostering sustainable diets, equitable livelihoods, and nature positive production in Namibia,” and saw the participation of various dignitaries and representatives including regional governors, councilors, traditional leaders and community based organizations.
The discussions emanating from the regional consultations brought many pressing issues to the fore, including regional food security, improved nutrition, youth engagement in agriculture, and increased agricultural productivity in all the 14 regions of Namibia. The consensus reached amongst the participants was that more needs to be done to transform food systems within the regions to bolster food security and reduce the high levels of poverty amongst their populace.
The private sector was also not left out of the equation as various prominent commercial entities such as Namib Mills and Namib Diaries all joined the dialogue that probed the role of the private sector in transforming food systems in Namibia. The entities acknowledged their role in transforming food systems in Namibia, mainly highlighting increased investment in the local sector as a means to stimulate growth.
The National Food Systems Dialogues concluded with a high level dialogue that brought together Namibia civic organizations, NGOs, development partners, technical co-operations and UN agencies to interrogate how they can leverage partnerships and strategies for transforming food systems and accelerating the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
During his opening remarks, Percy Misika, MAWLR’s Executive Director, thanked all the participants for availing their time and expertise to help Namibia in moving towards securing a future that has robust and resilient food systems and is free from hunger and poverty.
In the same vein, Sen Pang, the UN Resident Coordinator in Namibia, who provided the background on the UN Food Systems Summit, highlighted that the transformation of agri-food systems is no longer a matter of choice but is rather a matter of necessity as it becomes increasingly vital for governments to safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, as the appointed National Convenor in the office of the Prime Minister, together with the United Nations in Namibia, led and coordinated the National Food Systems Dialogues. The discussions emanating from the Dialogues will mainly be used to produce a final country position paper on Namibia’s Food Systems to enable her participation in the UN Global Food System Summit set to take place on 23 September 2021.