The President of AfDB, Akinwumi Adesina, former Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, declares that farming will soon be making more millionaires and billionaires than any other sector in Africa. I coincide with the above view, and my palpation is that agribusiness is the new goldmine for Africa’s smart entrepreneurs, and this calls for significant investments and supporting mechanisms to empower young farmers.
Agriculture is erroneously seen by others as works of the poor, yet it is where the money lies. People will always demand for food in every country regardless of the economic and social circumstances, even in times of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Thus, transforming food systems demands that thousands of young entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector be empowered to use their ingenuity and energy to build new business models that provide improved food availability, nutrition, equitable livelihoods, sustainability, and resilience.
I recognise that some of us grew up to see how harsh and depressing farmers toiled on the land and harvests were mere bags of grains not feasible for markets and profits, but to nourish immediate families. Therefore, we are strongly discouraged because of such graphics, but I assure you that a farmer is no longer someone who merely holds a hoe or a cutlas! Agriculture is by the way not just about toiling on the ground, but a science, art, and practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, application of aquaculture/aquiculture and raising livestock, and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.
The one thing people do not realise is that farming has come a long way in practise. If you utilise contemporary ways in particular, agriculture is highly lucrative and those whose minds are open are already reaping the rewards. “Oh yeah, monetary value figures might be as lengthy as the digits of the mobile phone!” Agriculture is typically considered a low-tech sector with moderate dynamics controlled by numerous small family companies that are more focused on doing something traditional rather than something unique. This position has been transformed significantly throughout the last decade because of economic liberalisation, the reduced protection of agricultural markets and a fast-moving and dynamic society making agriculture the future of the next generation of millionaires. Agriculture companies require more adaptability to the vicissitudes of the sector, the development of client preferences, enhanced environmental regulations, contemporary quality standards for commodities, value chains management, food safety, sustainability, etc. These innovations open the door to newcomers, resourcefulness, and agriculture entrepreneurship portfolios.
As a scholar, I am concerned about current huge enrolments at NUST, Unam, IUM, Triumphant College and other institutions of higher learning that might be ready for the Namibian jobs! Will all these prospective grads be integrated into the labour force? Certainly not! As a result, it is critical that agriculture be made a viable alternative for the driven and ambitious young women and men for a variety of reasons, including:
Firstly, Peace - city living is incredibly difficult without a serial income source. The lack of economic gains has led to uncivilised meetings among young women and men set out to wreak vengeance on society they believe had turned its back on them. When young women and men are economically engaged in agripreneurship and feel positive to their beloved Namibia; robberies and housebreaking in Rocky Crest and in the wider area of Windhoek will dramatically decrease.
Secondly, Solution to urbanisation - as the labour market cannot accommodate the figures of now pre-school, primary, high schools, and varsities that tend to move to the city for opportunities. We should critically think about this; it is our business to be self-sustaining. We must ensure that small farm owners can earn enough money to make a life and future for themselves in various regions of Namibia. The urban land grabbing issue perhaps could be resolved!
Lessons from Thailand
Thailand, like many African nations today, experienced economic problems in 1980. Today, however, they employ more than 30% of their youthful people as very productive, lucrative, and commercial small farmers, and they have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. The question is, how did they accomplish this? Thailand substantially increased the productivity of its small farmers in the 1980s, allowing it to dominate agricultural export markets. Building on this intensity, they attracted investment and began to process, allowing them to export higher-value goods such as cassava starch.. Finally, coupled with investment in education, they started to expand to even higher-value manufacturing.
To conclude, Uncle George Sankwasa Mubita presages that we live in a time where people appreciate and revere individuals who are proficient in English more than a farmer who cannot speak English. That is a serious sickness in our society, and it must change if we are all to create and contribute to the economy of our country. It is also worth noting that the true significance of the 4th Industrial Revolution for Namibia is to discover creative, best, and simpler approaches to our agricultural sciences rather than following those nations attempting to figure out how to launch life on the moon and planet Mars!
* Asa Romeo Asa hails from the Sibbinda and Makanga areas in the Zambezi region of the extreme north-east of Namibia. He is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Management Sciences at the Namibia University of Science and Technology.