Mahangu or pearl millet
Mahangu, also known as pearl millet, is a subsistence rain fed cereal crop which is the major staple food for over 50% of the Namibian population. The regions in which this crop is produced are:
  • Zambezi Region,
  • Kavango,
  • Ohangwena,
  • Omusati,
  • Oshana,
  • Oshikoto, and;
  • in parts of the Otjozondjupa region, in the Tsumkwe area.

This crop is highly adapted to low rainfall and the prevailing soil conditions in the North Central Regions and the Kavango. For many years, small-scale farmers have survived on the low yields obtained from mahangu. Mahangu farmers in Namibia are amongst the few populations in Africa that have successfully developed an integrated food storage system where they can store their grain in storage baskets made of wood strips for up to five years.

On the recommendation of the NAB, mahangu was gazetted a controlled crop on 15 May 2008 by way of government gazette no 109. This mandate ensures that from 1 July every year, no permits are granted for the import and export of mahangu until the total locally produced harvest is sold, guaranteeing a free market within the boundaries of Namibia. During this time, mahangu is marketed and sold in line with a production cost related floor price.


Mahangu harvesting in the village

Over the past few years, the Mahangu Development Plan 2010 – 2013 was implemented to support the development of the mahangu sector in Namibia. The aim of the Mahangu Development Plan 2010 – 2013 was to foster a rapid and efficient production and marketing system for the development of the crop. The 2010 – 2013 Mahangu Marketing Plan served:

  • To create an appropriate environment for improved production and marketing for sustained long-term production of mahangu crops, and;
  • To improve the marketing of mahangu for both communal and commercial farmers.

The Mahangu Marketing Plan’s objectives were to develop strategies for promoting surplus production, improve the marketing system and promote value addition and product development in the mahangu sector.

A subsequent 5 year - Mahangu Development Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020 based on the key success factors of the Mahangu Development Plan 2010 – 2013 - is soon to be implemented. The main objective of the Mahangu Development Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020 is to advance the commercialisation of the crop and supporting the mahangu value chain within the borders of the Republic of Namibia. With much of the Mahangu Development Plan 2010 – 2013 achieved, a focus area in the Mahangu Development Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020 is to provide further support to surplus producers and to encourage current subsistence producers to make available their grain for uptake into the commercial processing sector. 

National Mahangu Festival / Oshipe

Oshipe - Manhangu thanksgiving ceremony

Traditionally, mahangu subsistence farmers hold a Thanksgiving Ceremony after every mahangu harvest cycle. The ritual is performed to give thanks for the rain that has brought the cycle of germination, growth and harvest of a mahangu season. It also symbolises the end of an annual harvest cycle and the beginning of a new production cycle by praying for a good season of rain for the next harvest.

In 2002, a National Mahangu Festival – a modernised Thanksgiving Ceremony – was introduced by the NAB to give recognition to farmers who have implemented improved farming and cultivation methods to maximise their yield of mahangu. The National Mahangu Festival is called Oshipe if the ceremony is held in one of the North Central Regions (Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshikoto). During this ceremony, the top producers from each of the 7 producing regions are awarded certificates, trophies and prizes for their achievements in two categories.
Category One recognises farmers who:

  • produce mahangu on more than 10 hectares;
  • conduct operations that are semi commercial and mechanised;
  • have the resources to hire labour;
  • yield an average of 1.2 tons per hectare; and,
  • market 50% or more of their harvest.

The overall winner of the regional winners in Category One is recognised as the Overall National Grand Mahangu Champion.

Category Two recognises farmers who:

  • cultivate between 5 hectares and 10 hectares
  • have the resources to implement improved technologies and techniques,
  • produce between 0.8 and 1.2 tons per hectare, and;
  • market up to 50% of their harvest.

Mahangu Champion

The overall winner of the regional winners in Category Two is recognised as the Overall National Mahangu Champion.

The selection process for the winners of each region requires interviewing farmers and visiting their mahangu fields before the harvest. Mahangu winners and other surplus producers market their grains to registered millers and the National Strategic Food Reserves.
To include the inputs of all stakeholders in the mahangu production process, a National Mahangu Consultative Forum (NMCF) was established in 2011. The NMCF provides a platform for stakeholders to discuss and elaborate on critical issues for improving mahangu production and marketing and is held every year.

Because of the devastating drought in the 2014 – 2015 production period, no National Mahangu Festival or Oshipe was held.


Summary of mahangu planted, harvested, imported, marketed locally and producer price.

Financial Year Actual planted area (ha)* Estimated production (t)* Actual production (t)* Production marketed locally (t)** Quantity bought by millers (t)** Imports (t)** Floor Price per ton (N$/t)
2006 – 2007 194,788 58,852 44,450 825 No data available No data available ***N$1,780
2007 – 2008 186,197 37,279 35,512 512 No data available No data available ***N$ 1,900
2008 – 2009 257,735 37,300 37,301 507 507 2,185 ***N$ 1,948
2009 – 2010 264,436 35,512 73,272 996 996 3,336 ***N$ 2,699
2010 – 2011 270,018 41,166 41,122 1,064 422 1,034 ***N$ 2,668
2011 – 2012 255,456 55,945 55,921 975 233 1,860 ***N$ 2,872
2012 – 2013 229,449 33,038 24,695 1,040 536 3,863 ***N$ 3,041
2013 – 2014 254,528 Not available 44,141 532 358 5,485 N$ 3,504
2014 – 2015 225,831 Not available 28,584 750 264 2,987 N$ 3,640
2015 – 2016 Not available Not available Not available Not available Not available Not available N$ 3,475

Information received from the Crop Prospect and Food Security Situation Report, MAWFNAB statistics
NAB statistics
The same producer price as for white maize

Interesting Facts about mahangu

  • Mahangu is highly nutritious, gluten free and does not form acid in the stomach, making it easily digestible.
  • Mahangu is rich in the B vitamins thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3) and biotin (vitamin B7).
  • B vitamins are water soluble vitamins and are essential for overall health and aiding in:
    • Supporting and increasing metabolic rate;
    • Maintaining healthy skin, hair and muscle tone;
    • Enhancing immune function as well as nervous system function;
    • Promoting optimal cell growth and division, including red blood cells that help prevent anaemia (a lack of iron);
    • Helping the body to recover from the effects of stress, anxiety and depression
    • Help lift moods; and,
    • Helps aid with memory.

Mahangu is rich in minerals such as:

  • Iron which is essential for carrying oxygen in the blood;
  • Magnesium which helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis;
  • Phosphorus which in conjunction with calcium, helps to build bones and teeth. The mineral helps the kidneys filter waste, keeps the heartbeat regular, helps metabolise carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and supports the development and repair of tissue and cells in the body;
  • Copper, an essential for energy production and protects cells from the effects of free radical damage. Copper is also an important mineral that aids in strengthening connective tissue and brain neurotransmitters;
  • Manganese that ensures healthy bone structure and bone metabolism. Manganese acts as a coenzyme to assist metabolic progression in the body. Other health benefits includes the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, helps absorb calcium and regulates the blood sugar level; and,
  • Mahangu is high in phytic acid and phytates. Phytic acid is believed to lower cholesterol while phytates are associated with reduced cancer risk.
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Latest News

05 Oct 2017

National Horticulture Day 2017 - Namibia's best Horticulturalists awarded

The National Horticulture Day, presented by the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB), awarded the best horticulturalists Namibia has to offer. During the day, that took place on Wednesday, 27th September
13 Sep 2017

The champion communal grain farmers in the Zambezi Region honoured

On 13 September, the communal white maize and mahangu farmers from the Zambezi Region who apply the best dry-land production methods, were awarded by the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB). Mr Alec Sis
31 Aug 2017

Horticulture Producers and Traders to be awarded

Event: National Horticulture Day & Award Ceremony Date: Wednesday, 27 September 2017 (Full day event, including the official programme, excursions leading into a networking braai) Venue: