Namibia needs millions for plant genetics in food security

19 Aug 2016 09:50am
WINDHOEK, 19 AUG (NAMPA) – Namibia will need more than N.dollars 172 million to implement a 10-year strategic action plan for the conservation and use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
The figure was revealed in the Namibia National Strategic Action Plan (NNSAP) for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), which was launched on Wednesday.
Speaking during the launch, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa noted that PGRFA are essential to sustain livelihoods and provide food security.
“Particularly in the northern cropping region of the country, unique cultivars of staple crops have been selected and developed for hundreds of years, while many crop wild relatives and indigenous plants supplement diets and provide alternate income-generating opportunities.
“PGRFA conservation and use will become increasingly important in the context of climate change, which has the potential to reverse development efforts, particularly in the agricultural sector.”
Some of the key elements in the plan are the identification of PGRFA to be conserved and their relation to food security; climate change; and definition of the barriers of effective conservation of PGRFA.
The overall goal of the plan will be achieved by encouraging and supporting enhanced breeding activities in response to farmers’ needs, developing and enhancing sustainable capacity in plant breeding - including plant breeding in syllabi of existing and emerging courses at tertiary education institutions in Namibia.
In the early 1990s, Namibia developed a national programme for the conservation and use of plant genetic resources. The National Plant Genetic Resource Centre within the ministry is dedicated to collecting, documenting, conserving and promoting the use of local germplasm – the genetic material of germ cells. To date, the centre houses more than 4 000 accessions in the collection of various seeds. This includes major staples of pearl millet, sorghum and maize as well as legumes and melons that are important to the food security of local communities in the northern regions of Namibia.
However, while conservation efforts have been sustained over a 25-year period, value addition to the conserved material still remains a challenge, Mutorwa said.
This plan, launched Wednesday, will be valid for the next decade and its implementation will be coordinated by the ministry with the support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
The Gobabeb Research and Training Centre coordinated the plan’s compilation, while employing a data gathering approach.