You hear many people saying the youth are not interested in agriculture. These are mostly politicians and office bearers. According to them, youth are lazy and find agricultural activities disgusting, but find working in suits and polished shoes the only profession to pursue.
The real question to ask is; is it the will, availability of farming land or the market to sell local produce or general support that the youth lack?
It might be land, but no! I toured the whole Namibia and I have seen a lot of unnoticed and unrecognised small farming projects going on in our communities. What I have noticed is lack of support, support from individuals, the business community, financial institutions, universities and training institutions, and the government. That is what the youth is missing.
The youth are hard at work, be it in gardening, poultry, piggery, aquaculture, crop farming or even processing of different raw materials. I have seen youth giving up on their dreams, giving up on their projects, giving up on everything they have fought for; for so many years. This happens because they carried the pain of wanting to do something but circumstances got to them and learning the hard way, they realise that they are unable to breakthrough from these challenges.
Finance is one of the biggest defy that the youth are faced with. Youth in agriculture cannot get assistance from local commercial banks and other financial institutions to start or grow their agribusinesses for many reasons which most of them are known to all of us; unemployment, collaterals, poor business plans etc.
The market is another challenging factor that we don’t talk about it. So many people produce plenty and enough to feed us in our constituencies and regions if not the whole nation, but the market is not so favourable and keen to accommodate these struggling agribusinesses.
Did the government really recognise that these small farmers have the potential to feed the whole country? I doubt so.
Many people are saying the pandemic, Covid-19 taught us many lessons of which one is ‘Agriculture is the backbone and key to a self-sufficient nation when it comes to food production’.
The government allocated an amount of N$1.3 billion towards agriculture for the 2020/21 financial year, which to me is not enough. What makes this worse is, there are no plans or programmes aimed at growing small and emerging farmers. With a market dominated by imported agricultural produce even with the produce we produce in abundance how will these small farmers survive it?
The big shops in the country are still importing their white meat and fresh produce from the neighbouring South Africa, where are those policies and protection schemes that are aimed at protecting the local farmers, the likes of, mahangu Protection Scheme and Pork Promotion Scheme one might ask themselves. May we perhaps refocus on those policies, programmes and protection schemes, and enforce them?
Let us expose our small emerging agriprenuers by marketing them and their produces to potential customers, investors and donors for profitable and sustainable agribusiness. May we help them achieve their full potentials? May we give them the opportunity to feed the hunger stricken Namibia and create employment for themselves and fellow unemployed Namibians? With full support from every one of us, they can and will succeed.
* Otuvalumenhu Tulipohamba Kaanduka is a founding member and director of DeLA Namibia, a non-profit agricultural organisation aimed at identifying and promoting rural agri-projects, to empower small and emerging rural agriprenuers to maximise revenue for profitable and sustainable agribusiness. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org