Calle reveals reasons for culling Agribusdev

At the moment, over 5 600 of 8 950 hectares earmarked for irrigation purposes are under production.

17 June 2021 | Agriculture

MATHIAS HAUFIKU







WINDHOEK

Way forward:

· Abolish Agribusdev

· Transfer staff to agriculture ministry

· Outsource green schemes to private operators

· Appoint ‘competent’ project managers

· Align green scheme model with Harambee plan

Details of the agriculture ministry’s plans to shut the company mandated to operate the country’s green scheme projects, which are central to government’s food security drive, have been disclosed in official documents obtained by Namibian Sun.

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 Schlettwein, Agribusdev is the reason why green schemes are underperforming, mainly due to its business model.

“Farming decisions and operational matters were decided from head office with great delays; financial decisions from head offices deprived green schemes from getting required inputs in time, if at all,” he said.

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.

Schlettwein proposed that green schemes must be outsourced to private operators and that they must operate as separate business entities, each with a dedicated steering committee to oversee the management of projects.

He also wants project managers for each project who will be responsible for day-to-day operations.

The minister accused Agribusdev of charging small-scale farmers exorbitant lease fees, at times more than N$11 000 monthly. They also pay a 5% administration fee to Agribusdev.

“Small-scale farmers are prohibited from making use of unused land lying fallow because management has not leased the unoccupied plots to the farmers,” he said.

He added that locals are not given the first option for leasing land at green schemes.

Schlettwein further stated that houses meant for small-scale farmers at projects such as Muses and Sikondo irrigation schemes are occupied by Agribusdev officials.

Moving staff

At the moment, over 5 600 of 8 950 hectares earmarked for irrigation purposes are under production.

The minister claimed political and traditional leaders in the regions where the green schemes are located as well as small-scale farmers have called for the removal of Agribusdev.

Schlettwein further called for the abolishment of a memorandum of understanding signed by the agriculture ministry and Agribusdev and that the company be removed as the operator of the green schemes.

He wants all existing Agribusdev staff members to move to the directorate of agriculture production, extension engineering services.

Some employees, in a message circulated by Agribusdev workers, claim they were called and told that positions will be allocated to them and that no consultations ever took place.

The workers laid the failure of Agribusdev at government’s door, saying the entity was given extra roles without the necessary additional financial and technical support.

They also said the ministry’s decision to have senior agriculture ministerial officials serve on the Agribusdev board meant there were no proper checks and balances.

“If Agribusdev is to be dissolved, will employees undergo standard retrenchment procedures in which employees would be asked to either take their retrenchment packages or settle for the jobs offered to them?” the employees questioned.

They added: “Agribusdev employees would like to inform Cabinet that they have not agreed to taking any offered positions to them by the agriculture ministry and will not sign any employment contracts until full clarity to their questions will be given.

“If the company is to be dissolved, given the sense of no clarity of the matter, employees are opting to rather take their retrenchment packages than occupy the positions offered at the ministry,” they said.

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