WINDHOEK - It cannot be much of a holiday for most farmers given the devastating drought gripping the country but rather farmers must embrace the festive season to be close to their farming activities, especially their animals, particularly part-time farmers who on a daily basis are not on their farms. Times, drought, and its challenges is dictating that right decisions are taken and only the farmers themselves on the spot can do this rather than delegating such to farmhands.
This is the resounding message to farmers emanating from the last meeting for the year in the Harambee series, where farmers, especially part-time farmers have been gathering to share challenges as well as successes in farming. The series is an initiative of veteran farmer Albert Tjihero and fellows and the last meeting for the year was in Windhoek last Thursday. Coming under the loop are the challenges in farming and how to overcome them with specific reference to drought and how to deal with it; rainfall and the Namibian situation; the marketing situation of livestock; economic outlook and its impact on agricultural sector; and last but not least as of recent, the increasingly vexed question of the overlap between traditional agricultural shows and modern day trade fairs and expositions compounded by the entanglement of horseracing in the two former events.
And there could not have been a more formidable team with the likes of Frank Kanguatjivi of Feedmaster fame; Chief Veterinarian with special interest in large animal and wildlife, Israel Menunae Kaatura; Goliath Tujendapi manager for Trade with the Meat Board of Namibia (MBN); Bank of Namibia Deputy Governor, Ebson Uanguta; and one of the old time chief organisers of traditional shows, Katjinduu Tjahuha from the Epukiro Constituency who have been a regular as the chief administrator of the livestock section at the Katutura Expo himself also a regular face at the Okakara Annual Trade Fair as a judge in the animal section.
The drought aside, the challenges as enumerated by speaker after speaker of the eminent team, it was obvious that this festive season is and cannot be just another holiday but a time of serious reflection with those present to go back to their home bases, share the meeting’s reflections and in turn themselves go back to the drawing board to reflect on the various challenges. Evidently the chosen topics, if not their presenters, attracted much attention telling from the attendance in numbers. Not only but for most farmers attending it could not have been just a matter of curiosity and observation but of intense interest with most armed with writing pads. Not for their own sake but through each and every presentation farmers could be seen actively scribbling in the note/writing pads. Each presentation also as testimony to the intense interest among the attendee farmers, was followed by intense discussions/questions.
First to share his extensive knowledge with the farming audience was Kanguatjivi. And his presentation could not have been more pertinent and relevant, sharing with the farmers a practical approach to the ongoing threatening drought conditions in the country. Most instructive was his advise to the farmers that given the pertaining conditions of the animals due to drought, it is not advisable to let them travel long distances looking for grazing, which for that matter is non-existent in most of the given pastures where most of the farmers are farming, especially in the communal areas. Hence, the crucial importance of feeding the animals. Emphasising feeding against licking in view of the fact that animals because of the conditions of pastures, are very much in need of feed and not licks which are ordinarily supplements to natural grazing.
Not only this but Kanguatjivi also emphasises that fodder also differs depending on the condition of the animal(s), pointing out that when an animal is in a bad condition, it needs altogether different feeds for some time to uplift it from this bad condition before it can start to intake properly utilises nutritious feed. Hence the need not only for the right feed but also in the right amount.
Kaatura is of the view that besides for the rainfall patters that is and has been changing due to climatic changes, grazing pastures are also being impacted on by the traditional way of settlements like more livestock in limited pastures with each farmers having her/his own fenced off large portions of settlement; deforestation against bush encroachment and the fact that land is not growing while the population of people is. Tujendapi observes the marked decline in years of livestock production in the country which the farming communities must seriously take note, and most important the government lest through its policies and strategies does not impact the sector negatively.
In this regard he is of the opinion that the farming community does not seem to have a platform to voice its concern in this regard with the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), that is supposedly must represent the rural farming communities, being out of tune with the realities of this sector when making policy pronouncements.
He cites the possible ban of the export of weaners as a typical example of the farmers union being out of tune with its communal constituents, especially the cattle herding and rearing farmers in the rural areas of the country.
Similarly, Tujendapi notes that emerging communal famers equally lack a voice, because of their hybrid nature, being neither communal nor fully commercial, they cannot find a home in neither the NNFU nor the National Agricultural Union (NAU). Resultantly government policies and strategies have been lacking the necessary compass from the relevant communal or emerging commercial farming sector, essentially the sector of the previously disadvantaged farmers. Hence at best most of the government strategies and policies have remained stagnant without inducing the necessary growth as far as the farming sector(s) of the previously disadvantaged farmers are concerned.
Despite the economic outlook in the country due to the world financial crisis reducing the local agricultural sector’s contribution to only three to four percent the last few years, a figure which has been fluctuating, the agriculture nevertheless remains a major contributor to employment with 25 percent to the total labour force. Uanguta says but as from next year, a light at the end of the tunnel would start to flicker in the economy, thereby also improving the sector.
Certainly these are some foods for thought for the farming community this festive season, compelling them to put holidaying at the backburner and instead to ponder such challenges. After all, the essence of the Harambee series is for the farming communities to ponder various challenges affecting them, lest they one-day find avenues to address them.