Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has emphasised that agriculture remains one of the sectors that can help reduce poverty, ensure food security and create jobs for Namibians.
She was addressing the business community at the coast last week.
It’s worth noting that young men and women who were unable to keep up with the digital technological changes find it very difficult to secure jobs. However, agriculture has enough room to and absorb engineers, accountants, specialists in logistics and the IT sector and economists, etc among other professionals.
As an agri-business expert and founder of Youth In Agriculture Organisation, which has so far empowered more than 4 796 farmers that are now full-time agripreneurs, with 67% of them having sustainable projects, I can testify with confidence that indeed the agricultural dream of Honourable Nandi-Ndaitwah is achievable.
I have also worked with several ministries and I have concluded that a change of heart and strategy is needed, to take a leading role in ensuring objectives are realised.
I am convinced that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform must do more too (with the exception of the water department and veterinary that are performing well). Many extension workers in regions have built a negative culture of doing nothing to fulfil the government’s goals.
It is important that every stakeholder must play his or her part to ensure success but first each role player must change their mindset.
The individual must change the belief that the government has the ability to solve all the country’s problems and offer needed solutions or “somebody owes me a living hence whatever goes wrong I must blame somebody else.”
The government: The government must stop blaming external factors while ignoring its own role, or “nobody is taken to task for failing to fulfil his or her part.
Business owners and workers believe: “Prosperity lies in getting government tenders, and you do not need to work hard” or material wealth is the only thing you need to strive for even if it comes at the expense of workers, the environment and the country by dodging paying taxes.
Social partners: “Invite a foreign expert to write a nice document and get money and forget the fancy idea described by the documents”.
Parents: “Lokal is nie lekker” (I must buy foreign goods to ensure quality because local products are not of good quality), or my child is a child until I die, I must treat him or her like that (blame external factors when things go wrong).
What needs to be done to explore the full potential of the agriculture sector?
Invite local indigenous businesses that want to expand or set up manufacturing units and attend to their request (I do not mean money but any practical support that can help accelerate the business or make the business viable in the same manner Ramatex was supported to set up textile manufacturing plant).
Examples of support wanted are speeding up land allocation, providing advice, mentorship etc.
Encourage juice processing plants for grapes and watermelons in the south. This region produces grapes worth more than N$4 billion in market value.
Namibia last year exported table grapes to five European countries, generating more than N$650 million in income, while South Africa’s wine exports to the same countries generated N$6.5 billion. This confirms that value addition matters when it comes to trading, as opposed to volume only. This processing plant can create more than 4 000 jobs, and N$3 billion worth of investments.
Find solutions for communal farmers north of the red line to sell their beef: (i) Government must ensure that all the meat consumed in state institutions in these regions comes from abattoirs that buy animals from these areas.
(ii) Explore selling meat to African countries, such as DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Tanzania and other countries. These countries expressed the desire to consume beef from northern Namibia.
Introduce sheep farming to Kavango regions, especially Damara sheep. These regions do not have sheep at all, despite the sheep market being lucrative in Namibia.
There is also underutilised land in Kavango East and Kavango West. The two regions have about one million hectares of underutilised land and many youths can be employed through the value chain of breeding.
Invite proposals to commercialise and process marula products (juice, wine, wine and other products). The commercialisation of this resource has the potential to lift more than 80 000 women in northern communal areas out of poverty.
The end goal should be commercial products that can be viable and can become a successful industry. It can also be exported to other countries including Angola.
Invite partners to set up PPP processing facilities for crops such as pineapple (juice and fruits cannery), hot pepper (chilli) into powder, passion fruit into juice and many others. These facilities have the potential to generate huge cash for small-scale farmers.
Invite partners that can set up melon processing factories. Small-scale farmers in north central regions (Oshana, Oshikoto, produce lots of melons (omatanga) but these go to waste hence this valuable resource needs to be turned into processed edible products or into animal feed.
Currently, only seeds are used for cosmetics purposes. These products have the potential to earn income for many families and lift them out of poverty. The value of watermelon products that can be made in Namibia under the value chain process is N$320 million according to the research and statistic department of Youth in Agriculture, 2021. While if sold unprocessed, its value only stands at N$3 million.
The department of land reform needs to devise a policy that promotes production on the land and present it to the cabinet for adoption. Many people who were resettled are sitting on the land without any means of production which further hampers the country’s efforts to utilize productive land.
Authorities must organise farmers into regional cooperatives in horticulture production to supply food to the schools, hospitals and correctional facilities in their respective regions.
This way you create a sustainable market for farmers as opposed to having their goods getting rotten beside the roads. They will be motivated to produce to their maximum ability when they have a reliable market to supply. This approach has been very successful in many countries.
Some other crucial intervention is building Namibian indigenous-owned professional firms (real estate, consultant firms, pharmaceutical firms, legal firms, medical practice and many others.
Strengthening these firms is very important because they will employ black professionals. I am aware that many university and college graduates are unemployed and many foreign-owned enterprises are reluctant to employ them in strategic positions.
With such efforts, we will be able to take most youth off the streets.
*Haikali Ndatulumukwa is an Economist, currently serving as an executive chair for Youth in Agriculture Organisation and the director at the Future of Work Commission