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Schlettwein sets out agri revitalising stall

2022-10-06  Edgar Brandt

Schlettwein sets out agri revitalising stall

Edgar Brandt

The potential for Namibia’s agriculture sector must be unleashed to drive thousands of Namibians out of poverty and joblessness.This is done through achieving more inclusive growth and raising the share of the sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product.

Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein, who was the keynote speaker yesterday at the first of its kind Agri Outlook Conference in the capital said this.

The conference was jointly organised by all the farmers’ unions, namely the Namibia National Farmers Union, Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers Union, the Previously Disadvantaged Namibian Farmers Union and the Namibia Agricultural Union.

Schlettwein applauded the partnership approach in organising the conference.

The most recent figures indicate that during the second quarter of 2022, the agricultural sector’s real output expanded by about 2% year-on-year, since the rebound by 6.3% in 2020.

The minister noted that since the dissipating effects of the 2019 drought and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the agricultural sector demonstrated its resilience as one of the few sectors, which sustained a positive growth trajectory, thus anchoring current and future economic recovery prospects.

“Notably, the return to positive growth trajectory for the national economy sets the necessary condition for the country to realise per capita income gains and reduce poverty and unemployment through growth. However, such an impactful growth proposition is only possible when growth translates into job creation and income generation,” said Schlettwein.

He further noted that five fundamental themes of action have emerged for the sector to increasingly deliver on a transformational agenda and for it to depart from business as usual.

The first theme is the revitalisation of agriculture as a priority sector for inclusive growth, food self-sufficiency and security, and to serve as an anchor for economic progression and social transformation over the long-term.

The second is the urgency for policy reprioritisation in the sector as a sustainable pathway for building back better amidst the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, the on-going Ukraine-Russia conflict and the consequent plan of action to realise this objective nationally.

The third is investment in water generation, distribution and effective stewardship of the water resource as the cornerstones for economic and social progression, without which Schlettwein cautioned that no social, economic or environmental endeavour can be sustained for Namibia as the driest Sub-Saharan African country.

“This critical dependent factor and the concomitant stewardship for water as a basic enabler is to be matched with effective utilisation of the land resource to better realise the sector developmental objectives,” said Schlettwein.

The fourth theme is reviewed land reform and resettlement policies ensuring dual targets of correcting skew land ownership and improved productivity on resettlement farms are achieved.

And, the fifth is structural reforms in the sector, which the minister stated have become urgent, encompassing policy, legislative and institutions in a concerted bid to deliver increasing returns on investments.

Said Schlettwein: “The agricultural sector distinguishes itself through its inherent propensity to impact positively on lives and livelihoods: boosting national food security and food self-sufficiency through increased agricultural mechanisation, increased productivity and production, job creation, given the sector’s high employment intensity and multiplier effects across the value chains, poverty reduction potential through the generation of per capita income for individuals and households, and erosion of income inequalities through wealth-based empowerment opportunities.”

The minister also emphasised that for the sector to increasingly deliver on this transformational agenda, a departure from business as usual is required and a more innovative and partnership approach is required to address the constraints and actively implement growth initiatives in agronomy, horticulture, livestock and associated value chains within and across the sector.

“The lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic and the pass-through effects from the Ukraine-Russia conflict bring forth the needed policy responsiveness for the new normal. This new normal predisposes a shift in the policy priority away from relying on trade for food security, towards food self-sufficiency. This policy priority requires much improved productive capacity in agriculture across all the value chains,” said the minister.

Yesterday’s conference included an introduction to the Chamber of Agriculture by Gottlieb Hinda, an outlook on the sector by professor Andre Jooste, a presentation on public support in Northern Communal Areas by Kristian Hango and proposals for the way forward by Jaco Labuschangne.

Photo: Agri

2022-10-06  Edgar Brandt

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