Agriculture remains an important source of livelihood for the majority of Africans, but the sector is still very unproductive. Despite huge agricultural potential, sub-Saharan African countries have not yet benefited from it and experienced the highest prevalence of undernourishment worldwide.
As a result, countries import increasingly more agricultural products than they export, putting additional strain on scarce foreign exchange reserves. The challenges are abound and include gender disparities, dependence on rain-fed agriculture, and low use of irrigation, limited public investment and institutional support.
All these factors prevent countries from increasing productivity, adapting to climate change shocks and promoting agricultural value chains and trade.
Sub-Saharan African countries have recorded relatively high economic growth over the past two decades, but this growth has largely been jobless and poverty and inequality are still widespread.
This is especially true in Namibia, where growth in agriculture has hardly been accompanied by structural transformation. The labour force is still stuck in subsistence production and low productive agricultural sector.
In agriculture, women face particularly severe challenges. They are prominently smallholder farmers because the patriarchy system has tended to discriminate against them. Customary laws and rules governing ownership and transfer of land rights are generally unfavourable to women in sub-Saharan Africa, conferring title and inheritance rights upon male family members. Namibia is no exception.
The country’s low use of irrigation and overwhelming dependence on rain-fed agriculture explain the continent’s low agricultural productivity. The main staples of Namibia are unirrigated crops (maize, millets and sorghum).
In addition, limited public funding in the agricultural sector has also prevented the provision of adequate institutional support and suitable business environment, in turn hindering private sector participation and investment in agriculture.
As such, there is a need to increase agricultural productivity, as this would support structural transformation process and economic growth in the country for three reasons.
First, it will enable the labour force to move from the agricultural sector into other sectors and help to develop the manufacturing and services sector.
There is a high momentum behind developing and promoting the agricultural sector as a catalyst to industrialization and agribusiness development.
Second, it will allow African farmers to better manage and integrate the entire agricultural value chain from the farm to storage, transport, processing, marketing and distribution.
This will not only improve food supply but also create additional revenues and jobs.
Third, farmers will be able to take advantage of large markets, increase trade and exports of agricultural products and progressively integrate regional and global value chains. However, farmers need to deliver high-quality products at competitive prices and integrate international distribution channels by satisfying the norms and standards set out by their trading partners.
We keep our fingers crossed for better prospects.