We are in the midst of a health and economic crisis which has drastically changed the way we do things. The pessimists will say the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has come to turn our lives upside down but the optimists among us will say that it is opening our eyes, forcing us out of our comfort zones and making us do things we have never attempted to do before. And therefore, despite the challenges we face and the hardships we are enduring because of Covid-19, we must look to the future with hope and optimism.
For a couple of months our borders were closed as one of the many measures put in place to protect ourselves from being infected with Covid-19. When our borders were sealed, we found it extremely difficult to import what we ordinarily considered as everyday supplies especially and other basic commodities.
For a very long time, we took it for granted that we will always get what we need from across the border. If we thought that agricultural self-sustainability was not at all necessary, Covid-19 has come and showed us that we need to be less dependent on others and start producing our own food to feed our own people and to create jobs.
Most of the agricultural products that we consume are imported. No one could have predicted the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on our economic life. It has come to open our eyes as wide as possible to the stark realities that await us if we continue to do nothing to become less dependent on other countries for our agricultural products.
The only thing that is certain for the Namibian economy in a post-COVID-19 environment is that recovery will take time and is not going to happen overnight. But there is hope.
Initiatives like the ‘Youth in Agriculture’ gives us hope and confidence in a prosperous Namibia that is able to feed her people from her own soil.
I am inspired by the fact that Youth in Agriculture are working towards accelerating the involvement of young people in agriculture and farming as well as to enable rural youth and women to access funding to acquire knowledge and the necessary tools to establish independent yet profitable agribusiness enterprises.
This initiative, if fully supported and aggressively implemented, has the potential to address socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, food insecurity and poverty.
The message to our youth is loud and clear. Farming can no longer be treated as weekend pastimes. Agriculture is a critical cog in the economic landscape of our country. It must be given the respect it deserves. As emerging and aspiring agriculturalists, young people must treat agriculture as a business like any other. Give it love, give it attention and learn about new methods of farming like a lawyer or an accountant would do in their respective careers.
The world of agriculture is forever evolving. They are now talking about precision agriculture to ensure profitability, sustainability and the protection of the environment.
In this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, young people have the advantage of leveraging from the developments in ICT, innovation and agribusiness solutions.
I therefore dare state that we should resist the temptation to stick to goats and cattle and focusing only on potato, onion and tomato farming. The world is your oyster and the sky is your limit.
There are sub-sectors of farming that are hitherto under-invested. I am here referring to poultry farming, hydro and aquaponics, high value cash crops which young people can consider and make handsome profits from it.
With the potential that farming offers, it should not be an embarrassment to study towards a qualification in agriculture. It is the weapons we need to fight the ultimate fight for food self- security, employment creation and poverty eradication. The importance of having more graduates in modern agriculture can therefore not be overemphasised.
*Gerhard Mukuahima is the Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank