Genuine agricultural transformation
09 September 2019 | Columns
Despite the continued effects of climate change, Namibia has been blessed with rich, fertile land in various parts of the country, in particular the northern regions such as Ohangwena, Kavango West and Kavango East, Zambezi, Oshana and Oshikoto.
The sector is also recognised as one of the country's most vulnerable, in terms of the impacts of climate change. The predicted increase in temperatures and evaporation, as well as the increased variability of rainfall, adds to the existing challenges that Namibia faces - challenges that continue to threaten the country's path to development.
Farmers are struggling to harvest effectively due to the change in climatic conditions. This means that the nation is going hungry, and a hungry nation is an angry nation. As many people around the country continue to flock to urban centres from rural areas, searching for employment and better standards of living, we need to explore ways of providing opportunities for youth in rural areas, to incentivise them to develop the regions they currently inhabit.
We can minimise city migration by providing agricultural facilities that are able to provide a livelihood in rural areas and small towns.
Challenges such as urbanisation can also be avoided, should we cooperate as 'One Namibia, One Nation' and make agriculture a priority.
The latest statistics confirm that agriculture, as a sector, has not been fully exploited, considering that it only contributes 6.7% to the country's GDP. Agriculture is of such importance that it can lead to higher job-creation and economic growth, increased food productivity, the reduction in food prices and the creation of sustainable employment opportunities in both rural and urban areas.
The country is also blessed with rich mineral resources, but mining is becoming increasingly unsustainable, considering that most mines are closing down and retrenching employees. What will happen in such cases where the country depends on something that cannot be sustained? What if food production from South Africa can no longer reach Namibia? What if there is no rain for the next five years or so? How is Namibia going to feed the next generation if agriculture is not fully part and parcel of sustainable development?
Namibia is going through an economic crisis and government alone will be unable to feed and support the agricultural sector.
The private sector, as well as individuals, should work hand-in-hand to assist the county to achieve its goals and mission, by supporting farmers with boreholes, drilling machines and other farming infrastructure, for the benefit of those in rural areas. This alone can create employment in all fields of study, such as engineers who would be drilling the boreholes, accountants for bookkeeping, logistical professionals for transportation, lawyers for legal representation and administrators for recordkeeping, just to name a few.
Most of the farmers residing in the northern parts of the country depend solely on rainfall when deciding to cultivate their fields. However, in this current economic predicament and drought, they can be encouraged to start with crop farming when provided with boreholes in each of their villages, if possible. Let the ministry of agriculture step up and start focusing more on transforming agriculture, rather than on green schemes alone.
There is a need to engage and empower unemployed graduates, especially those from the University of Namibia's Neudamm campus and other agricultural faculties, and actually help them to utilise their skills in agriculture.
Let the ministry of agriculture invest in agriculture to end poverty and hunger in our country. The World Bank proved that agricultural development and the financing thereof is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty.
Namibia can make use of this opportunity and solve challenges that the country is facing, by providing machinery and infrastructure to various farmers in villages. That way, households can be encouraged to produce a variety of fresh products, and be able to feed their families, without having to depend or rely on food banks. Enterprise development will be assured too. The Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) could partner with local farmers and start supplying fresh local produce that would directly or indirectly feed non-governmental as well as government organisations, such as the education ministry, through hostels, the safety ministry, through the state prisons, and the health ministry, through admitted patients, and so forth.
Fellow young Namibians, let us work hard and continue advocating for agricultural transformation as an option to establish our own food security, create sustainable employment, eradicate poverty and advance economic emancipation. We can no longer continue depending on imported food products. The xenophobia in South Africa is a tough lesson to us, as Namibians, not to rely on South Africa's agricultural commodities.
*Ephraim Nekongo is the secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL)