• September 19th, 2020

Agriculture is the Alpha and Omega of Namibian economy

Sioni Ikela

From a Biblical perspective one can say that God ordered humanity to prioritise agriculture with the instructions  “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” 

This means when we work in our own strength to cultivate the soil we shall have the ability to feed ourselves and therefore secure food security in our homes and in our country.

It is thus not by accident that agriculture in Namibia contributes around five percent of our GDP, though 25 percent to 40 percent of Namibians depend on subsistence agriculture and livestock. 

Our primary products include livestock and meat products, crop farming and forestry. In recent years, there was introduction of “conservation agriculture”. By definition of Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nation, conservation agriculture is a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment.

 There are mainly two types of farming, namely commercial farming and subsistence farming. A large percentage of Namibians depend on agricultural activities for livelihood, mostly in the subsistence sector. Subsistence farming is where the farmer only grows enough crops and owns enough livestock to feed himself and his family. 

In Namibia, it is mainly confined to the “communal lands” of the country swarming north, where roaming cattle are ubiquitous and the main crops are millet (omahangu), sorghum, corn and peanuts. Commercial farming contributed between five to six percent of Namibia’s GDP from 2004-2009 and animal products, livestock and crops exports constituted roughly 10.7 percent of total Namibian exports. There are about 4000 commercial farms in Namibia, and not all these farms are used to their maximum capacity. 

Cattle grazing is predominant in the central and northern regions, while karakul sheep and goat farming are concentrated in the more arid southern regions. The government encourages local sourcing of agriculture products. Retailers of fruits, vegetables and other crop products must purchase their stock from local farmers. Table grapes, grown mostly along the Orange River in the country arid south, are becoming growingly cardinal commercial crop and a consequential employer of seasonal labors.

The Green Scheme Project is geared to encourage development of irrigation along the maize triangle (Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Otavi), as well as in the north central and north eastern regions using the Kunene, Kavango and Zambezi rivers. It also serves to proselytize agro-projects in the South using the Orange River, and dams such as the Naute and Hardap Dams.

Only two percent of Namibia’s land receives sufficient rainfall to grow crops. All inland rivers are ephemeral, meaning they only flow following heavy rain events, so irrigation is only possible in the valleys of the rivers that form the Namibian boarders, namely at the Orange, Kavango, and Zambezi. 

Namibia’s Alpha and Omega sprawl within Agriculture sector. As Namibian leaders and general public alike, if we want to improve the already wilted economy of our country, we must pay attention to agriculture and invest massively in this sector.

Few things need to be done:
1. Invest in water infrastructures - desalination plants at the coast, and at Ohangwena Aquifer;
2. Look for sustainable and reliable energy sources - possible long-term solution is nuclear power;
3. Make budgetary provisions for both crop and livestock productions;
4. Have green schemes at village level;
5. Provide extension services through agriculture graduates to provide expertise;
6. Enact laws to protect local produces and make sure that both public and private entities consume    local products; and 
7. Rehabilitate and dig new earth dams.

 It therefore follows to say if we are borrowing money we must use the money on productions and manufacturing. Agriculture sector being one of the salient and conspicuous sectors contributing to our GDP would free us from the bondage of future borrowings and debts. Let us learn from China, they borrowed a lot of money from World Bank and other commercial banks to build the Three Gorges Dam, which they use for agriculture and power generation and is catering for a big population of China.

 Fellow Namibians, we do not need anyone else to find solutions to our problems and challenges. Let me assure you today that all our solutions are within our reach and until we begin to trust ourselves, we will have a lethargic economy. Other nations will use our situation and the fact that we are desperate, to their advantages. 

While I appreciate the effort by government on our road network and railway, I feel like our focus has been biased too much toward this sector. We have been quick to take loans for these types of development. But these do no generate revenue to pay back these loans. We need to create production centers and “development connection networks” once they become productive. It is interesting only to think of seawater desalination now. This would have been NDP1 project long ago. 

We would have now needed to focus on development of water pipes network across the country. We would have revolutionized our agricultural sector, making most of our land agricultural productive throughout the year. Upscaling dates production, grapes, tomatoes, olives, and other high quality cash crops. It’s proven that Quality Olives grow well in Swakop river catchment.  Beside this, no big scale production ever planned. We need to re-think. 

New Era Reporter
2019-02-26 09:55:14 | 1 years ago

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