The word renaissance means an activity or time of great revival or rebirth. Those of you familiar with European history will remember that this was a period of the revival of literature and learning that started in the 14th century, from the so-called primitive medieval times to a more modern world.
On the other hand, gentrification simply means to renovate or improve and this term is mostly used in the real estate fraternity, where properties are given a facelift in order to accumulate value, so that owners can gain more wealth from them.
Now putting the two concepts into context (renaissance and gentrification) in agriculture means the establishment of policies and accumulation of economic, social capital, that seeks to promote agriculture in a given area.
Those of you who grew up in the 90s would remember that Zambezi region used to be referred to as the ‘breadbasket of Namibia’, because of the pontetial it had in producing adequate food for both domestic consumption and export.
It’s true because back then it was evident and tangibly seen through government projects and private operations which were running at the time (both commercial and subsistence).
Some of the examples were the Katima farm, Kalimbeza sugar cane, wheat and rice plantation and the adquete crop production that was going on around the infamous lake Lyambezi (speakingunder correction). Today it disheartens me when I see places like Kalimbeza rice project laying bare and idle, with lots of infrastructure, state-of-the-art equipment and worker’s accommodation roughly ranging in millions getting dilapidated before they go to use!
At the same time you will here our leaders cautioning about the food shortages that lay ahead of us. The other day I was reading about how we have to be spending millions just to import potatoes! Shame and sad but true!!
What happened to our pontetial and where are we now? Is it a management problem or is it an ignorance problem? The answer is, I dont know, but what I do know is that we still have the same potential to feed our country as the Zambezi region.
So where do we go from here?
In order for us to reclaim our spot in crop production, it means we need to change and elevate our game. By this I mean we need to have a paradigm shift on how we do things as far as mass production is concerned.
We need to take stock and inventory of how we have been doing things and what needs to change. We also need to bring in the best minds in the agricultural field, as I believe there are a lot of qualified Namibians in this field.
I am not an agricultural specialist, and this is all personal opinion, from the elementary and secondary school agriculture class ... Lol. Firstly I think the first thing to do is revisit our policies on import and export, whereby we will discourage import on certain key agricultural products that are produced by our own people, as this will boost our local market. How can Namibia import mango, yet the whole town of Katima is stinking because of rotten mango that has no market!
Secondly, the transportation restrictions of certain products from Zambezi to the rest of the country in the name of the “cordon fence” is really not fair in my view, therefore it should be amended because this has always been [contentious] and if not attended to we will never go anywhere as Zambezi farmers. We will keep running around in circles, but not reaching our target point.
It’s really funny that you can not cross with mango from Katima to Rundu, but you can bring mango from Rundu to Katima, yet Rundu is also within the cordon fence, just in the name of “fruitflies” haha! Someone explain this one to me if possible please!
Thirdly, we need to have value addition to our crop products. I wonder what happened to Vita juice, because it just vanished into thin air and has deprived our people of that original taste of juice that we grew up on. As it may be, we need the same kind of initiative on a huge scale this time. I know some of you are saying, “Oh where are we going to get a steady supply of guava?” You dummy, even a person can grow in Zambezi soil, so we will grow it. Go to Kalimbeza and see! Lol
What I mean to say is there has to be a mechanism in order for us to save this money and hard work of our parents that has been going to worst! Otherwise, we will be crying year in and year out, as far as the issue of mango is concerned.
In addition, the regulation of maize prices should be attended too. I am not a farmer and I don’t always sell but I have always listened to the cries and grievances of our people on open line, as far as prices are concerned, when it comes to local maize buyers. We need to stop this monopoly capital system of willing-buyer and willing-seller.
This is the same system that brought systemic wealth divides in the USA, where the few elites control the prices, and suck the poor for all its worth. There has to be regulated and reasonable prices that will ensure that local farmers are motivated. As a farmer, there is no way one will invest money, sweat and effort in something that s/he knows will only yield peanuts and tokens at the end of the day!
Last but not least, our farmers need incentives. In order to fight successfully, one needs economic and financial power. We do have people who are willing and capable to be successful farmers but a lack of funds is a major setback to them, so government should be able to make sure that these people are identified and assisted. Furthermore, information should always be available of when and where these people can obtain these funds.
In conclusion, let us all as Namibians help in reviving the Zambezi region in order to retain its potential to feed the nation. We can not keep on importing tomatoes, with that amount of water in the Zambezi River, and type of soil that is able to sustain such tall mopani trees all year round!
In West Africa they say ‘An able-bodied person who begs for food is an insult to the generous farmer.’
They also say ‘No matter how good a dancer you are, eventually you have to leave the stage’ – so let me rest it there.