Red Line can go - Alweendo

The economic planning minister has called for a border fence between Namibia and Angola to prevent the spread of animal diseases and allow the removal of the veterinary cordon fence further south.

12 October 2017 | Agriculture

A new approach is needed to allow the removal of the veterinary cordon fence as a way of incorporating all Namibians into the mainstream economy, says economic planning minister Tom Alweendo.

“To achieve disease-free status, there is a need to expedite the erection of a fence on the northern border to eliminate the pockets of infection in the livestock populations in the Northern Communal Areas,” Alweendo said in a speech read on his behalf by deputy minister Lucia Iipumbu at the annual congress of the Namibia Agricultural Union.

Alweendo said the removal of the veterinary cordon fence also known as the Red Line, needed to be handled carefully and in a responsible manner considering the fact that it ensures control over sporadic outbreaks of diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.

He emphasised the need to ensure that Namibia's laws, regulations, and inspection regime are of a world-class standard to avoid disrupting Namibia's exports to external markets if the fence is removed.

According to him, access to markets, together with land tenure security, has been one of the biggest barriers to upward mobility for many communal farmers.

He said the communal farming in the northern communal area directly sustains the livelihoods of close to half of Namibia's population, and remains their main source of household income.

“With such a high density of the population in the northern communal area dependent on communal farming, there is a real need to turn rural areas into commercially viable zones,” he said.

According to him, for rural development to take hold, the transition from communal farming towards commercial production will eventually be determined by access to markets.

Alweendo said the Namibian economy is highly dependent on agriculture, from the employment it generates and its contribution to GDP.

“Although in Namibia agriculture contributes only about 4% to GDP, the sector remains one of the most important and strategic sectors employing over a third of the workforce.”

Due to agriculture's strategic importance in addressing food security and improving livelihoods, the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) emphasises the need to increase productivity in agriculture, especially for smallholder farmers.

“It is our belief that smallholder and communal farmers have an important role to play in enhancing food production and ensuring food security.”

Increased production from smallholder farmers will create opportunities for value addition, income generation and the development of agro-business, said Alweendo.

Government and all stakeholders must strengthen agricultural extension services to smallholder and communal farmers by ensuring supportive infrastructure for small-scale farmers including increased access to markets, access to credit; quality control support and better seeds. Furthermore, Green Scheme projects should also be expanded.

One of the strategies the government will employ to support smallholder and communal farmers will be through the procurement of locally sourced produce in bulk for prisons, army barracks, hospitals and schools.

The government's procurement system will also be used to favour local producers.



ELLANIE SMIT

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