The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) and the University of Namibia (UNAM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at a ceremony held on Wednesday, 17 June 2020 at the UNAM main campus.
The main objective of the MOU is to enable the two organizations to engage in research activities that will enhance local production, processing, preservation, storage and marketing of both controlled and non-controlled agronomic and horticulture crops that will contribute to food security and overall economic growth in Namibia. The MOU is expected to deliver a significant contribution to the agronomy and horticulture development with critical targeted interventions on an annual basis through the implementation plan to be approved by both parties. The implementation of the partnership compliment efforts currently being facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR), especially in seed research and seed production as a primary entry point into production.
The collaboration between the two organizations will mainly focus on conducting seed research and seed production of controlled and non-controlled crops within Namibia, pest and disease research with regards to both agronomic and horticultural products, conducting laboratory services to test agronomic and horticulture products for food safety and product quality or any other related tests as well as the monitoring crop production and marketing.
Additionally, the collaboration will enable capacity building, technological innovations transfer and conducting of research related to marketing, value addition and storage of agronomic and horticulture products.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, Dr Fidelis Mwazi, NAB’s Chief Executive Officer said, “The drought experienced in the 2018/19 production season had negative effects on our agricultural industry, notably so that it was a challenge in accessing seeds for staple food crops from neighbouring countries, as we do not produce our own sufficiently. Hence the need to invest in seed research and seed production as well as enhance self-sufficiency.”
Dr Mwazi further said, for Namibia to realise the aspirations of improved quality of life for our citizens in terms of access to food, we need to accelerate and improve the agronomic and horticultural development to achieve food self-sufficiency and significantly contribute to the GDP through the crop industry.
Thus, as part of the agreement, the NAB has committed to be providing UNAM with 70% of the total budget needed for the implementation of the activities based on approved targeted interventions or projects that will be done on annual basis for the next 5 years. For the 2020/21 financial year the NAB has availed N$ 500 000 with immediate effect to speed up the implementation plan accordingly and continue to contribute as stipulated in the MoU to ensure sustainability and success of the agreement. UNAM will contribute 30 % of the total budget, provide the land needed for the project and ensure that the MoU is supported with sufficient technical expertise and testing laboratories as well as offer courses that meet the needs of not only for the NAB but the entire crop industry in the country.
Speaking at the same event, Professor Rhoda Birech (Lead Researcher) from UNAM said the preparations for the implementation of the MoU has already begun, with the first phase focusing on seed research and seed production. Starting with pearl millet (mahangu) and white maize, to be followed by wheat and other crops at a later stage.
Professor Birech further said, the university is expecting delivery of 24 varieties of pearl millet (mahangu) from International Centre for Crop Research in Nairobi, Kenya in the next two weeks. The varieties are exclusively selected to suit the climatic conditions experienced in Southern Africa. Furthermore, the university is expecting 30-40 hybrid varieties of white maize to be tested in four production zones, namely: North Central (Omusati), Central (Otjozondjupa), Kavango’ and Zambezi which will later be tested in all the remaining production zones such as KARST (Maize triangle), South and Orange as demarcated by the NAB.
Reflecting on the event, Professor Kenneth Matengu, UNAM’s Vice Chancellor emphasized on the importance of the strategic partnership which will be formed between the two organizations in accordance with the MoU.
“This MoU is a vital tool in ensuring food security and self -sufficiency in the country and UNAM is fully committed and ready to undertake this important project and ensure successful facilitation of the implementation plan” he said.
The NAB remains committed to establishing itself as a world-class regulator of a vibrant, diversified and sustainable crop industry in line with its mandate of promoting the agronomic industry and to facilitate production, processing, storage and marketing of controlled products in Namibia as outlined in the Agronomic Industry Act, Act 20 of 1992.