WINDHOEK: If the world is to succeed in overcoming hunger and malnutrition as well as meeting the demands of today’s and future generations, fundamental changes are needed in agricultural and food systems.
A new report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) titled ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012’, which was issued on Tuesday noted that it is essential that governments and all stakeholders promote the gradual realisation of the right to adequate food and establish and protect rights to resources, especially for the most vulnerable.
According to the report, Namibia is one of the 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa with the most undernourished people, with about 34 per cent of all citizens being chronically hungry.
The FAO said the figure represents the biggest such number since the turn of the century.
“Regarding food and agricultural production, there is great potential for sustainable intensification. Adequate and stable agricultural productivity growth depends critically on the health of agro-ecosystems and their capacity to provide services such as soil fertility, resistance to pests and diseases and overall resilience of the production system,” it noted.
The report indicated that healthy ecosystems can also provide important benefits beyond farms, reducing agricultural pollution that has high costs and contributing to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation and watershed protection.
In spite of its importance, the FAO warned that agriculture will not be a way out of poverty for all rural people.
Some smallholder farmers, particularly those with adequate levels of assets and access to transforming agricultural markets, will be able to develop sustainable, commercialised production systems.
According to the report, these systems will allow them to move up and work their way out of poverty.
Acquiring new land that enables them to expand their production and marketed surplus will, in many cases, be part of that process.
On the other hand, many poor rural people have extremely limited or no access to land and markets. They will thus not be able to rely on farming alone to exit poverty.
In addition, in countries where the supply of land is limited, not all farmers can expand their landholdings.
Instead, some will need to seek opportunities in the rural non-farm economy, either through wage employment or self-employment, which can provide them with their main route out of poverty. For youth, many of whom aspire to move beyond agriculture, the rural non-farm economy will be of particular importance.
“It is critical to evaluate such approaches in terms of their equity impacts as much as their efficiency as they involve transfers of costs and benefits amongst groups in society. Some successes with approaches that combine poverty reduction and environmental sustainability have been achieved, and these need to be built upon and expanded”, the report added.