The trilateral cooperation between the Government of Namibia and Japan and UNDP Namibia has yielded a cross-sector multi-stakeholder collaboration that includes critical private-sector partners. This trilateral cooperation, which is in line with the Government of Japan Supplementary Budget priorities of 2020/2021, has produced Namibia's first e-voucher granting system, launched on Monday 07 February 2022.
This innovative e-voucher system is spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR) and funded with support from the Government of Japan. Namibia's first e-voucher system is being implemented by UNDP Namibia, in collaboration with private sector partnerships established with NEC XON Systems Namibia as the technical partner and systems facilitator and the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF) as grant and fund administrator.
The e-voucher granting system is an electronic payment method that requires almost non-internet conditions, which is vital for its successful deployment in rural areas. As implementing partner, UNDP will issue a grant, which will be disbursed by EIF, through the e-voucher system. Voucher cards will be issued to project beneficiaries for use at selected procurement outlets identified as execution partners.
Speaking at the launch event, UNDP's Resident Representative to Namibia, Ms Alka Bhatia, emphasised the project focus 'to enable market access to agricultural inputs and improve the distribution of quality agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers through the involvement of various agro-dealers.
A vital aspect of this cross-sector multi-stakeholder relationship is the convergence of public and private sector organisations towards achieving sustainable development goals by combining knowledge, expertise and resources to accelerate local initiatives that deliver new solutions for the most vulnerable in Namibia.
During his remark, Ambassador Hideaki Harada emphasised that the malaise wrecked by the Covid-19 pandemic on Namibia's food system is the reason why 'the Government of Japan has decided to provide assistance in order to support the Namibian government's efforts to carry out agricultural development in cooperation with UNDP, a long-standing and reliable partner for Japan and Namibia'.
The Government of Namibia equally recognises the private sector as a critical enabler in achieving the goal of sustainable economic transformation. More so to build resilience and increase food security to recover from Covid-19 and related shocks like drought. This recognition has raised the stakes for policy-making toward solutions such as the e-voucher granting system.
Honourable Minister Calle Schlettwein (Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform) officially launched Namibia's landmark e-voucher system with a vote of thanks to the Government of Japan for availing funds of no less than US$1 million for this pilot project to Namibia for the project, through UNDP. Honourable Schlettwein also commended UNDP Namibia for its responsiveness in ensuring a swift execution of the project.
Even before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, Namibia faced challenges such as drought, persistent and wide economic disparity and the existence of a largely poor population, which was mainly in the rural areas. However, due to the rural-urban drift, these challenges have now cascaded to include the urban and peri-urban areas. Supporting Namibia's efforts to address such challenges is vital from the viewpoint of human security, reduction of poverty and sustainable growth, which are principles promoted by Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) Charter and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).
The e-voucher system is piloted through the Build Back Better Urban Agriculture program (BBB). The BBB Urban Agriculture programme responds to the current socio-economic impact of the pandemic in Namibia by focusing on enhancing food security and improving livelihoods in urban and peri-urban communities in Namibia. The BBB urban agriculture programme is in line with Japan's development assistance policy for Namibia with support from the Embassy of Japan in Namibia. The BBB Urban Agriculture project is funded by the Government of Japan and jointly implemented by MAWLR and UNDP Namibia in close collaboration with the respective regional councils. The BBB programme is currently underway in four regions (Erongo, Kavango East, Khomas and Hardap) towards improving the livelihoods of informal vendors, small-scale producers and farmers in urban and peri-urban areas.
Under the BBB Urban Agriculture programme, the process for implementing the pilot e-voucher granting facility to informal vendors, small-scale producers and farmers in urban and peri-urban areas has been established. Thus, the grant's reach is intensive and accurately targeted at the poor and vulnerable.
Previously, emergency relief subsistence grants have been distributed across the country through paper-based vouchers. This paper-based system presented several challenges, including the availability of real-time data for decision making, information on beneficiaries and traceability. Implementing this e-voucher system will generate data and evidence to strengthen institutional capacities for improved accountability and increased efficiencies in grant management. Through data collected, the digital grant and subsidy issuing system would also serve as a monitoring tool to demonstrate the equitable distribution of grants to the intended beneficiaries. This will also strengthen decision making at the national level, especially on the impact of interventions.
Namibia's first e-voucher system is a versatile tool that could be applied to other subsistence grants or Covid-19 related relief support to ensure the direct and immediate impact on the well-being of disadvantaged communities at a human level. The focus of this digital solution is to empower the beneficiaries of government grants, which include the most vulnerable in Namibia, including women, youth and people living with disabilities. This innovative digital granting system will improve access to the procurement of needed supplies to upscale their production capacity for a more sustainable livelihood improvement.
This innovative and collaborative solution anchored in a human-centred approach - from design through implementation - holds the potential to unlock economic opportunities to build resilience and sustainability for Namibia to recover from the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and handle future shocks.