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Opinion - Short-chained food security mindset

2021-03-16  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Short-chained food security mindset
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Augustinus Ngombe


Farming and agriculture have come a long way with the sustenance of mankind’s life in the history of mankind. From hunting and gathering, the only means found to mitigate and substitute food provision has always been agriculture. As we narrate this, we should also admit that agriculture had evolved much to date. 

We should also take note of the growth of population on earth and the economic theory of demand and supply which is paramount to us in this era. Though, the aforementioned factors are key, our main concern is how to ensure food security to Namibia in this time and era. As that is discussed, we will try to identify who was supposed to ensure that we have plenty of food and what limits them from achieving such a crucial goal.

Historically, agriculture was a family practice. For Africans, the labour was taken care of by the collective effort of the extended family. There was as well no need to produce for commercial but enough to feed the family. This did not mean that Africans did not know how to carry out farming but they were just subsistence farmers. So many methods developed by farmers alongside the Nile River, Euphrates in ancient Egypt have been useful to date. But this is a discussion for another day.

Namibia is believed to be a semi-arid country. The central heading South are animal farmers, dealing with small stock and cattle farming. The indigenous people have done well, as we have beef being supplied in abundance by farmers in those respective areas both indigenous and white settlers. However, we have been struggling to make ends meet in crop farming. 

The question is why had this been a case? This study suspect that a clear laid out market for meat (through Meatco) had encouraged farmers specialised in animal husbandry to carefully and profitably produce. The producers of animals know specifications required by Meatco and know that Meatco buys from them to supply to different markets inside and outside the country. 

Thus, most of the animal farmers do not spend much of their time strategizing marketing plans to push for the sales of their animals. Theirs is to take good care of the production process and the rest, Meatco finds a way to carry out. In other words, if they have raised animals meeting the standards of Meatco, they are sure of earning money.

The unfortunate thing is in the crop husbandry, where such provisions are not available or if they are available, they are not as effective as Meatco is. We have not paid attention to this because our retailers rely heavily on South Africa for supply. The competitiveness in this market, given the economic strength South Africa has on our market is high such that, our small scale cannot be able to reach without assistance. Is there any possibility for us to be self sufficient, in terms of food? Yes, we can. 

If we do away with the short-chained mindset on food security we shall achieve the goal. It is short chained because the entrepreneurial part of agriculture is absent in crop husbandry and only present in animal husbandry. Though the subject of the matter is agriculture, we are tempted to use economic theory of demand and supply to make sense of our case. 

The crop farmers need to know that, unless there is a demand for their goods, their effort could go in vain. We have specialists at the moment who can take care of production but have no idea of how to market their goods to the general public. This begs the question of the role of those who studied marketing in our country. Secondly, the production at a small scale makes their retailers not to rely on the local farmers. 

If they were to buy from them, for how long will this last as they have consumers to take care of in large quantities daily? Thus, there should be a paradigm shift from individualism to collaboration farming. 

It makes no sense having someone producing 1 ton of tomatoes per annum, having a contractual agreement with Shoprite who may need that in a day if not an hour countrywide. The government have tried to introduce a body (AMTA) that could market crops within and outside the country but it failed, as it did not engage farmers at the grassroots. 

We may say that, our local farmers are not producing to meet the demand of a population. It may be right, ours should be finding out as to why that has been on going? If the little they produce does not gets sold out and have a consistent and reliable cash flow, how will they afford machinery to enable them to produce at a large scale? Remember our background has been producing enough for the family only. Commercial farming is a new thing. On the other hand, AMTA or any other body responsible without educating or informing the producers accordingly, instead just wait for the farmers to supply them with the produce. This created a gap which contributes to the shortening of the chain of agriculture. It is this waiting of farmers to be engaged and be assisted and the AMTA to be supplied with produce that keeps widening the gap of food security in Namibia.

Going forward, we need to turn lessons learned in Covid-19 that having our own supply is imperative. Other countries could close their borders and starve our nation. We can achieve it, if we strengthen marketing in crop farming and supply chains. It is important to educate our locals that production is possible if we work the land with purpose beyond just feeding a household for a shorter period of time. It is necessary to have bodies established by the government, monitor and hold them accountable to live up to their mandates. 

The northern areas have fertile land and water. Should people understand the value of land rather than the expense of life in a city, we can possibly create jobs through agriculture and in a way address the issue of food security in the country. The farmers and anybody established to assist them need to work in hand to keep each other informed and see each other as stakeholders. All in all, we should integrate the business side of agriculture to complete the chain of food security in the country.

2021-03-16  Staff Reporter

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