WINDHOEK - They may not necessarily have been between a rock and a hard place but hitherto they have been without a backbone to fall back on and a voice to represent their interests, being neither communal farmers in its strict sense nor fully fledged commercial farmers.
That is why they have not been able to join either of the leading farmers’ unions, the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) and the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU). As much as there is much they can learn from NAU, matter fact the country’s most advanced agricultural union, beginners that they are they deem for now that NAU cannot be the vehicle to propel them forward in farming while albeit them, the NNFU is for their interest too much focused on resettled farmers. Not that there is much dichotomy between communal and commercial farming, as one can find communal farmers with high or equal turnover to commercial farmers in terms of the number of animals they are selling. But to address their unique farming needs, which can neither be pigeonholed into commercial or communal, that is why this new breed of farmers has decided to mobilise another farmers’ body, the Previously Disadvantaged Namibian commercial Farmers (PDNCFU). At its helm as chairperson is Jane Kuhanga, formerly the chief officer of the Otjozondjupa region, but now a farmer.
Lately, Kuhanga has come to be the voice of the previously disadvantaged farmers in their ping pong with the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank), leading from the front, like last March on independence anniversary eve when she led fellows in a march through the streets of the capital, winding up at the offices of the Ministry of Finance and Agribank where they handed petitions. The bank and these farmers have been in an endless, sometimes acrimonious, tussle over arrears on the loans with the bank. The last time an understanding seemed in sight between the bank and the farmers after they met the credit committee of the bank, chaired by Dr Michael Humavindu. But the presumed understanding has turned out to be a morass in the face of the near auctioning of one of the farmers’ farm in the Otjozondjupa region, halted at the eleventh hour when the arrears were paid.
The birth of the PDNCFU, long overdue, is thus timeous to elevate the relationship between the bank and the farmers that has hitherto been in limbo because of a legitimate body representing the farmers. With the election of the executive committee in Windhoek last Wednesday, all that now remains is to register the organization – a process that has been slightly delayed as the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) has been seized lately with registering companies for the fishing rights rush. Nonetheless, Kuhanga’s registration should be done within two weeks from last Friday.
True to her belief that both communal and commercial farmers are engaged in a commercial activity somehow, Kuhanga says PDNCFU membership is open to all farmers irrespective where they are farming from with a membership fee of N$500 a year. But PDNCFU, most regrettable for Kuhanga, seems to be missing the land conference and she does not know who is going to represent their special interests as emerging farmers.
This, to her, is really a lost opportunity. Not that they have not prepared a position paper. But how it is going to be served at this all-important land conference is the million-dollar question. Being the second largest group of landowners, ala the recently released statistics, after foreigners, Kuhanga, says they are important stakeholders in land matters, and thus the land conference.