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Food Security  

Worldwide over 800 million people have not enough food to eat on a regular basis (FAO 2004). The largest proportion of the world’s undernourished people lives in Asia and Africa. The Kunene basin countries – Angola and Namibia – are working to diminish their population’s hunger and aim at enabling food security.

Food security can be defined at various levels: the regional, national, provincial, community and household level. It is achieved when at each respective level “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern" (FAO 2009).

Distribution of cultivated land in the Kunene River basin.
Source: AHT GROUP AG 2010, after GLCF 1998
( click to enlarge )

International Initiatives to Achieve Food Security

In the past, international initiatives aiming at food security have been developed:

  • The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) called the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996 in response to widespread undernourishment and growing concern about the capacity of agriculture to meet future food needs. The conference produced 2 key documents, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. The Rome Declaration calls for the members of the United Nations to halve the number of chronically undernourished people on the earth between 1990 and 2015 (World Food Summit Goal).

  • A further initiative is the UN Millennium Development Goals. Just as the World Food Summit Goal, the first Millennium Development Goal states that the UN is to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Regional Initiatives

In order to avoid future food emergencies, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has developed a Regional Early Warning System (REWS) through its Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. This early warning system is part of the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a collaborative activity designed to provide early warning about food security issues.

REWS provides advance information on food crop yields and food supplies and requirements. The information alerts Member States and stakeholders of impending food shortages/surpluses early enough for appropriate interventions. National Early Warning Units have been established in all Member States to collect, analyse and disseminate early warning information at country level (SADC – FANR website 2010).

Grinding maize into flour.
Source: Tump 2008
( click to enlarge )
Maize is a staple crop enabling food security.
Source: AHT GROUP AG 2009
( click to enlarge )

National Initiatives

In Angola the proportion of undernourished people in the period 2004-2006 accounted for approximately 44 % of the population. This indicates progress compared to the period 1990-92, when 66 % of the population were undernourished. Namibia has also achieved progress in reducing hunger. 1990 to 1992, 29 % of the population were undernourished, with the proportion declining to 19 % in the period 2004 to 2006. Whilst encouraging, this progress is so far not sufficient to meet the hunger reduction targets mentioned above (FAO 2009).


Angola has developed a National Strategy on Food and Nutritional Security (Estratégia Nacional de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional / ENSAN) for the period 2009 to 2013 and a corresponding Action Plan (Plano de Acção / PASAN). With the approval of the strategy in 2009, the next step will be the institutionalisation of the National Food Security Council, followed by provincial and district councils.

ENSAN (2009-2013) aims to contribute to strengthening food security policies and actions and to reducing vulnerability and food insecurity in Angola. The specific objectives of ENSAN for 2009 to 2013 are to (GoA 2008):

  • Increase and diversify sustainable agricultural, livestock, and fishery production in order to improve levels of food supply and living conditions in rural areas;
  • Ensure the availability and stability of food supplies, and restore the internal market by linking areas with surplus and areas with greater demand and consumer needs;
  • Improve the conditions of access to food by guaranteeing social protection to disadvantaged groups;
  • Reduce levels of malnutrition of the population by improving health, education and sanitation conditions;
  • Develop and implement national and local early warning and monitoring systems;
  • Ensure sanitation safety as well as food and water quality to protect public and consumer health.


One of Namibia’s national food security initiatives is the creation of a National Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. NEWFIU is piloting a food and livelihood security monitoring system in six regions in Namibia for an improved understanding of important seasonal factors and trends in food security. In the context of the monitoring system a Coping Strategy Index (CSI) has been developed which measures the frequency and severity of actions taken by households in response to the presence or threat of a food shortage (Bäckman et al 2009). An insight into Namibia’s Household Food Security Situation is provided in a NEWFIU report of December 2009.

Food Security Survey Including Angolan Kunene Basin Provinces

In 2005 a “Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA)” was carried out in households in six south Angolan provinces by the SENAC project for the United Nations World Food Programme. Three of the surveyed provinces (Huíla, Namibe and Kunene) fall within the watersheds of the Kunene basin. To measure household food security, the survey used different proxy indicators such as children’s nutrition and health, frequency of food consumption and dietary diversity as well as household access to food (WFP 2005).

Vulnerability to Food Insecurity & Vulnerability Groups

The survey divided the sample households into three classes with different levels of vulnerability to food insecurity. The least vulnerable group (47 % of the sample households) included the households specialised in cattle rearing and the “rich” farmers with an average cereal production covering nine months of the household’s food needs. Around 25 % of the households had a low vulnerability to food insecurity and included the fishermen, the households living from forest products and agriculture and the agricultural biscateiros who obtain their main income from daily labour work on other farmers’ land, in combination with their own land as well as a range of other activities. The remaining one third of sample households was very vulnerable, typically having low agricultural production, with cereal production covering a maximum three months of household needs. Nearly 70 % of these were returnees after the civil war, and 41 % were households headed by women (WFP 2005).

Reasons for Vulnerability to Food Insecurity

The outcome of the study was compared with another survey done in the central highlands in January 2005 including the Huambo Province which falls within the upper reaches of the Kunene basin. The comparison showed that the central highlands are amongst the most vulnerable areas to food insecurity in the country, due to different structural reasons, including (WFP 2005):

  • Generalised poverty and few productive or domestic assets at household level;
  • Few options for income diversification through income generating activities;
  • Localised high population density, resulting in limited access to agricultural land;
  • Impoverished soils, poor farming practices with few agricultural inputs; and
  • High pressure on natural resources.

Implications for Further Programmes

To improve household food security and reduce vulnerability in rural households, the study gave recommendations to complement food interventions by non-food interventions, including the improvement of (WFP 2005):

  • Micro-credit facilities;
  • Information on commodity markets;
  • Market access;
  • Access to safe drinking water and sanitation; and
  • Rural infrastructures.




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

View a historical timeline of the Kunene basin countries, including water agreements & infrastructure

Video scenes about the limited access to water of the San in Kunene Province