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BBB initiative will strengthen the food system and recovery from emergencies and disease-related shocks- Minister Schlettwein

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Last week, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR) launched the Build Back Better (BBB) initiative, a special project on urban agriculture aimed at strengthening the food system to recover from emergencies and disease-related shocks.

The Minister, Calle Schlettwein, who was briefed by his Deputy Minister, Anna Shiweda, stated that the project aims to improve the livelihoods of primarily informal vendors and small-scale farmers in urban areas.

“I am pleased to note that the project envisages achieving these aims through multi-faceted interventions that are focus on, the prevention of the further spread of COVID-19 through the provision of handwashing facilities for informal food markets, urban food production to mitigate humanitarian needs of food security and nutrition and addressing socio-economic impacts of Covid-10 by supporting the livelihoods of the vulnerable through income-generating activities,” he added.

He stated that the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is very important and it has been identified as a priority under pillar 2 of the Harambee Prosperity Plan II on economic advancement.

“There is a dedicated budget for the promotion, support and financing of the development of SMEs in Namibia, including SMEs in agriculture and this ties in well with the development of Peri-urban agriculture project, which we are launching here today,” he added.

He also highlighted that the majority of smallholder farmers in urban and rural areas does not have access to formal agricultural markets and therefore depend on informal markets to market and sell their produce.

“However, these markets are often characterised by poor marketing infrastructure, resulting in high post-harvest losses (PHLs), which in turn, culminates in the loss of revenue and real income to farmers and vendors,” he explained.

Schlettwein said that if sub-Saharan countries, including Namibia, are to honour their obligations towards the achievement of SDG 1 and 2 on ending poverty and zero hunger respectively, as well as to deliver on SDG target 12.3 on reduction of PHLs, we need to address these inefficiencies by directing targeted and dedicated investment towards the development of both hard and soft-wares of the marketing systems of the agricultural informal sectors of the countries.

He said as a government they have started with such investment initiatives through the establishment of the Agricultural Trade and Marketing Agency (AMTA) and the construction of Strategic Food Reserve Facilities which serve a double purpose of storage and a ready market for farmers.

“We like many other countries has not been spared by the viral Covid-19, and other disasters such as the Foot and Mouth Disease, Droughts, Floods and recently the locust outbreaks, which impacted negatively the national and household food security in the country,” he added.

Schlettwein said as a country they remain committed to unlocking the economic potentials presented by these sectors, as enshrined in the Harambee Prosperity Plan II priorities and in pursuing inclusive socio-economic growth and the requisite economic transformation to achieve the Fourth Industrial Revolution goals.