Household Food Security Assessment - Namibia, July 2013


  1. Executive summary

Namibia is an arid country, regularly affected by erratic rainfall and dry spells. As are result, people have developed a number of coping mechanisms to improve their food and economic security during these periods. However, some population groups are chronically poor, and their coping strategies have been eroded to the point where people no longer have saleable assets and they are regularly relying on donations of food from family and friends. The 2013 drought has exacerbated this poverty by destroying peoples primary source of food, namely their own production.

The Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) declared a national drought emergency in May 2013. This was after significantly below average rainfall across most of the country resulted in decreased crop production. According to government forecasts, cereal production for 2013 is down an estimated 42 per cent compared to 2012. Pastures for grazing have also been severely affected in six regions where many households rely on livestock production.

Staff and volunteers of the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS) conducted this economic security assessment with the technical and financial support of British Red Cross. It was conducted between July 10th and August 8th, 2013. The assessment team visited three regions in Northern Namibia that had previously been identified by the GRN and the NRCS as being among the most drought-affected: Kunene, Oshikoto and Kavango.

The assessment findings indicate significant differences between the populations in each of the three regions. There are differences in terms of the length of drought, the impact of drought on communities/households, the livelihood strategies of the populations, underlying levels of poverty and the coping strategies available to households. As a result of these differences, two regions have been identified as needing immediate assistance: Kunene and Kavango.

Households with low incomes in both these regions are increasingly reliant on government assistance in the form of pensions, grants and food assistance (maize). In the Zemba communities visited in Kunene Region and in many communities in Kavango Region, poor households reported receiving donations of food from family in friends even in 2012. In Kunene, this is being supplemented by government assistance whereas in Kavango, government assistance has not been received.

Kunene Region is facing its second year of declared drought, compared to the first year in the other two regions. As a result, the effect of the drought on livestock pasture and water availability is more severe than in the other regions, and crop production has been severely reduced.

Households are also exhibiting more severe coping strategies. For these reasons, intervention in Kunene should be prioritized (especially in Epupa Constituency and surrounding areas). Kunene Region not only requires food assistance (in the form of cash) but would also benefit from water interventions, disaster risk reduction activities and ongoing nutrition surveillance.

In Kunene, the communities are relatively small in size and they are more discrete, which should make selection of communities and distribution of cash easier. It is recommended that within the targeted communities, universal distribution (i.e. provide to all households) be carried out, as the number of “better off” households is few.

Communities visited in Kavango Region are chronically poor, with limited opportunities for income generation. Although the drought has had less impact there, people are struggling to cope with the loss of their crop production. It is recommended that food assistance (In the form of cash) also be provided in Mukwe and the rural areas around Rundu.

In Kavango however, the communities are larger and therefore targeting will be necessary in order to ensure that households in need receive support and to avoid inclusion error.