© Ashim D’Silva
Namibia is full of contradictions, which is what makes it a fascinating country. It is one of the most neglected and least studied countries (compared to many others in Africa) partly because of its relatively low population of just over two million in a vast country (larger than Texas and over twice the size of Germany) and its World Bank classification as a ‘middle-income’ country. However, this hides numerous indicators such as being one the driest counties, the second most unequal countries in Gini coefficient rankings, and having shockingly high rates of poverty, malnutrition, and stunting. With a poverty rate of about 40% and 50% unemployment, one finds about one-third of the population are food insecure, and the stunting rate of children is at 24%. There are about 400,000 people in need of humanitarian aid. This data is much worse for many marginalized groups such as the Himba and San peoples. To illustrate the inequality, the poor spend about 60 – 70% of income on food while the rich spend 10 – 20%. Food security is just one of many issues facing Namibia. Being extremely drought prone, water access for drinking and irrigation is a huge issue. Likewise, only half the population has access to electricity.
A team from Penn State and the University of Freiburg visited Namibia in early March to begin work with colleagues at Namibia University of Science and Technology and University of Namibia to address water-energy-food (WEF) security issues using a ‘Nexus’ approach and also to explore Universal Basic Income (UBI) as an optional way to meet the WEF securities program. Namibia was one of the first countries to pilot a “foreign-based” Basic Income Grant. In addition to meeting with university staff and donor agencies, the visit comprised a workshop on these topics in Windhoek followed by a field trip to the Northern region where the majority of the population reside. Visits included stops at a women’s cooperative making value-added products from indigenous fruit trees, regional development centers focused on smallholder agricultural and livestock production, and meetings with communities (e.g., San people) and town and regional councils. There are endless opportunities for engagement in collaboration. Activities are expected to commence on addressing projects on disaster risk and resilience, horticulture and agroforestry products value chains, bush encroachment, water conservation and harvesting, wastewater treatment and irrigation, and off grid solar energy. Penn State students (and faculty) will work with counterparts from Namibian universities to collect WEF data through these projects and use models to develop indicators to assess WEF Nexus tradeoffs and synergies. University of Freiburg students will conduct UBI social justice related experiments to assess how and what approaches make sense for the local people to receive such payments.
The researchers envision that tying WEF Nexus and UBI together entails examining whether provision of WEF services and infrastructure is more sustainable than providing unconditional cash payments.
For more information and to participate in and learn more about these projects please contact Michael Jacobson.
This article was originally posted on wefnexus.org.
More information on the WEF Nexus can be found here.