Green scheme windfall for private sector

Move aimed at benefitting the well-connected, critics say

18 June 2021 | Agriculture

OGONE TLHAGE







WINDHOEK

Government is set to offer its green schemes to private-public partners as soon as it has concluded the closure of Agribusdev, a report in Namibian Sun’s possession indicates.

The parastatal’s acting managing direction Berfine Antindi last week informed employees of its pending closure in a memo following a decision made by the agriculture ministry.

Cabinet approved the outsourcing of the green schemes to private operators in line with the second phase of the Harambee Prosperity Plan.

The projects earmarked to be offered to the private sector include the Katima/Liselo and Zone green schemes as well as the yet-to-be developed Neckartal green scheme, the report noted.

Meanwhile, critics claim the move is aimed at benefitting well-connected individuals who have already lined up to take over the projects.

“Some farmers have already struck deals with officials in the ministry to hijack some of the projects. This is what this is all about and not performance as claimed. If government wants green schemes to work, they must make the necessary investment,” an Agribusdev insider said.

Recommendations

Among recommendations made to Cabinet was that the lease agreements provide for 25% shareholding by small-scale farmers operating from farm units at such schemes and that the operator build the requisite capacity of the small-scale farmers to progressively increase their shares in farm business to 100% by the end of the lease agreement to enable them to take over the full management of the entire scheme on expiry of the operator’s contract.

A recommendation also forwarded was that government-owned green schemes would be operated and managed as a separate business entity with a tailor-made business plan to be developed by the private sector entity who will be chosen to lease the scheme, coupled with a dedicated steering committee to oversee the management of each scheme.

The lease would be paid over to communal land boards.

The recommendations further outlined that an audit of all green schemes would be conducted.

Poor management

Last month, agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein made a 10-page submission to his colleagues in Cabinet outlining the reasons why Agribusdev should cease to exist less than a decade after it was created.

According to him, the parastatal is the reason why green schemes are underperforming, mainly due to its business model.

He listed poor management of the operations, assets and finances of the green schemes as well as a “restrictive” management model as the biggest challenges.