Thursday, 07 June 2012 08:13

Namibia: Mine to Boost Agriculture

Windhoek — Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP), which continues to draw attention from environmental groups over its mining methods for the phosphate deposits at the Namibian ocean bottom, says the mining output will play an important role in food security in Namibia, and in the entire southern African region.

The company says it would be producing "high good phosphate, which is an essential component in the production of fertilisers, while making a significant contribution towards the empowerment of women, who constitute the majority of subsistence farmers on the African continent".

Namibia Marine Phosphate is a joint venture between Australia's two companies, UCL Resources Limited and Minemakers Limited, and Namibian company Tungeni Investments.

Mining activities for the phosphate deposits, dubbed the Sandpiper Project, are located in the Namibian waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, 60 kilometres off the coast of Namibia and cover a combined area of 7,000 square kilometres in the regional phosphate-enriched province to the south of Walvis Bay in water depths of 180 metres to 300 metres.

Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) points at the country's agricultural potential, which has thus far been constrained by a low average rainfall and few perennial rivers and has to rely on its trading partners for most of the necessities it requires to feed its people.

"Some 28 percent of households are classified as 'poor' in Namibia, meaning they spend 60 percent or more of their total consumption on food. This phenomenon impacts the nation's children, with 24 percent of all children under the age of five classified as malnourished or stunted.

"This is a serious problem. If we do not spend urgent attention on this problem, we are in effect admitting that a quarter of our country's population does not need to be included in our vision of the future," says NMP.

Given the expected effects of climate change on the country, the company says: "Namibia is a more fortunate country than most, because it has a world-class resource phosphate deposit on its doorstep. Making use of this resource - an act of nature and geography - has the potential to fundamentally change the future of Namibia, for the better."

NMP says food security and agricultural productivity must be kept on the agenda. There are several policy tools the country can use in this instance, but given the country's scarce water resources, an important strategy will be to make fertilisers more accessible to farmers, for whom fertilisers are a significant cost input.

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