Study explores sustainable crop production in Namibia
Ensuring sustainability from ‘farm to fork’ is a measure that enhances food security as it enables the provision of nutritious foods produced without degrading the environment.
The issue of sustainability is paramount as the world grapples and tries to balance between producing enough food for everyone, and same time guaranteeing that future generations enjoy a safe environment. This trend has seen an intense focus on the production and consumption of organic food, according to a new study titled, Supporting sustainable agricultural production and consumption in Namibia, by Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Among the incentives that motivate farmers to adopt more sustainable practices, are markets which play an important role in the transition towards sustainable intensification. Policy pressures to propose ‘climate-smart’ agricultural solutions and the rise of consumer demand for “sustainable” products (including organic, fair trade, ‘green’ labels) have created market outlets for sustainable food, textiles and energy in developed countries.
In Namibia, markets for organic and other sustainably produced products are gaining attention internationally thanks to study undertaken by the FAO, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the Namibian Organic Association (NOA).
“This study is one of 15 cases selected for publication in a volume that explores how markets can drive the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices,” says Babagana Ahmadu, FAO representative in Namibia. The book is a result of a survey that explores innovative approaches (public, private and civil society) designed to link sustainable crop production practices in local markets for sustainable products in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Linking sustainable production and consumption through efficient and inclusive food value chains, is one of the strategic priorities of FAO. This approach clearly converges with the objectives of the Namibian National Agricultural Policy, which among other priorities, aims to promote the sustainable utilisation of the nation’s land and other natural resources.
Through NOA’s participatory guarantee system (PGS) of certification for organic products, Namibia has been able to ensure that the market drives the adoption of sustainable agricultural products. The PGS brings consumers, producers and other intermediaries together on a regular basis to conduct ‘peer-reviews’ of organic farms. The system relies upon the expert knowledge of farmers to assess farming practices, and the interest of consumers and intermediaries to participate and observe these assessments. The system also relies heavily upon direct marketing through members of the network, the weekly Windhoek Greenmarket and through Internet orders for the Organic Box.
FAO and NOA interactions with a number of organic producers, processors and traders, showed that there is a demand for Namibian-made organic and sustainably produced food, but greater support is needed to set up the institutional supports that can make this food more easily accessible to all types of consumers across the country. This is in terms of sufficient supply, retail outlets and competitive prices.