UNPROVEN: But ‘northern Namibia’ does have a strong claim to ‘bread basket’ title

Image courtesy: www.nab.com.na

Despite a solid case, information is incomplete at this point to categorically label the northern regions as the country’s bread basket.


On Tuesday, 17 December 2019, a number of news media carried a Namibia Press Agency (NAMPA) story about the state of crop production and recent rainfall across the northern parts of the country.

The introduction of the NAMPA report states:

“FARMERS in northern Namibia, the country’s bread basket, have been urged to work hard to make the most of the good rains received in the area recently.”

Namibia Fact Check was approached to check the claim whether “northern Namibia” is the “country’s bread basket” as reported by NAMPA.

First, Dictionary.com defines bread basket in the agricultural / geographic sense as “an agricultural area that provides large amounts of food, especially grain, to other areas”.

In order to establish whether “northern Namibia” is the bread basket of the country, it’s important to have an idea of the different farming systems prevalent in Namibia, which the book ‘Farming Systems in Namibia‘ visualises as follows:

If bread basket predominantly refers to crop production, then the figures of the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) are instructive in this exercise. The NAB collects and reports data and information on ‘controlled crops’, which are white maize, wheat, mahangu (pearl millet) and horticultural fresh produce (fruit and vegetables).

It should be noted, though, that most of the maize, wheat and horticulture fresh produce consumed in Namibia is imported, mostly from South Africa, while most of the mahangu is locally produced.

In its latest available annual report, for the 2017/18 financial year, the NAB gives partial figures / information for which areas of the country account for significant volumes of controlled crop production.

In terms of white maize, the NAB report presents the following in terms of major production areas:

In terms of wheat, the NAB report presents the following in terms of major production areas:

However, with regard to mahangu (pearl millet) and horticulture fresh produce, the report doesn’t present the same sort of table for production areas, and the following is inferred:

  • Mahangu production is predominant across the north central and northeastern regions – Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kavango West, Kavango East and Zambezi regions;
  • Horticulture fresh produce is produced across the country to vary degrees of intensity and volumes.

Given all this, if the Maize Triangle area is considered part of “northern Namibia”, seeing as the Tsumeb portion of the triangle falls in Oshikoto region, then the case certainly is very strong for “northern Namibia” to be considered the “country’s bread basket”.

However, given that more recent data and information, incorporating the damaging effects of the latest drought, are not available, “northern Namibia” cannot be unambiguously crowned THE bread basket of the country at this stage.


18th December 2019

Frederico Links

Frederico Links is the editor and lead researcher of Namibia Fact Check and a research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)