WINDHOEK - It is time that farmers from especially the communal areas of Otjozondjupa and Omaheke add their voice to two pertinent issues that has a direct bearing on farming, particularly animal husbandry.
This advice comes from the manager for Trade at the Meat Board of Namibia (MBN), Goliath Tujendapi. He offered it during a farmers’ evening at the Okakarara Trade Fair last Wednesday which was broadcast live on the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC)’s Omurari FM. Tujendapi who also represented a consortium of sponsors comprising Agribank, MBN, Feedmasters and the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) presented N$100,000 in sponsorship to the agricultural division at the fair. He wanted to know, in anticipation of the envisaged Second National Land Conference billed for the first week of next month what the voice of farmers’ unions, particularly the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), the Otjozondjupa Communal Farmers Union (OCFU), and the Omaheke Regional Farmers Union (ORFU) are on the vexed question of the possible closure of the borders between Namibia and South Africa to prevent the export of weaners.
Tujendapi says this is a matter of direct concern to the farming communities and should thus also be an agenda point at the coming land conference. Notwithstanding, Tujendapi is concerned that as yet the voices of farmers and their associations on the land issue has as yet to be heared OCFU and ORFU were represented by their respective leaders, Ramana Mutjavikua and Katjindu Tjahuha. Tujendapi on the evening particularly focused on the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF), as well as the export of weaners to South Africa, which he linked to the land question. He says he does not see the removal of the red line as the answer. Rather the government should implement measures to bring the areas north of the red line on par in terms of animal health with those south in being disease-free, especially free from the dreaded Foot and Mouth Disease.
Namibia is neighbour to countries such as Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe where Food and Mouth Disease is a frequent occurrence.
Tujendapi says the solution is to close the border between the two countries by erecting a fence. The process involves take Namibia plus minus six years in terms of freeing the area from diseases, thereafter verifying its disease-freeness with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). If we do this as a country then we can integrate the northern part into the national and international marketing streams thereby contributing positively to the livelihood of thousands of farmers currently suffering as a result of lack of markets. Government needs to take a bold decision in this regard. In absence of this critical decision – we will be talking for another 20 years to come and farmers will continue suffering, he said.
Regarding the export of weaners to South Africa, Tujendapi says the country need a national strategy to balance the slaughtering with export. Closure of the border cannot be the only answer if Botswana’s experience is anything to go by. This country had its livestock and meat products prices tumbling following the closure of its borders with South Africa starting with a price fall of 35 percent to 60 percent currently. On the contrary, before Namibia contemplates closing its borders to retain weaners, she needs to ensure necessary infrastructure are in place such as feedlots and ensure that this facility are run on a very sound financial basis as to improve the profitability of the value chain. Tujendapi lauds the government’s Growth at Home policy. We should be part and support government initiatives in promoting growth.
However, such policies needs to be implemented with caution as not to add additional cost to the value chain and ensuring that we retained the weaners on profitable grounds as not to affect the producer price which have direct bearing on the producer livelihood at the end especially those in Otjozondjupa and Omaheke. Therefore any policy implementation should be geared towards supporting the whole value chain. “Any policy must first and foremost take care of the production side, ensure that the producers are empowered. When you teach a woman you teach a whole nation.
Likewise, if you give necessary support to the production side or to the producer, your whole value chain would be vibrant,” says he. In many respects, producers are carriers of the cost in the value chain as a result of policies.
“The pertinent question is how has the producers at their level been gearing themselves for the implementation of this policy?” he asks, but also encourages primary producers to follow through their animals to the end product to see what niche in the whole value production chain they can and may be able to exploit.