WINDHOEK - President Hage Geingob yesterday directed the ministries of land and agriculture to ensure all government resettlement farms have become productive in order to help, amongst others, boost food production in the country.
Among the farms which must become fully productive, the President ordered, is the deplorable Ongombo West farm, which he wants to see exporting flowers to international markets again.
He directed the two ministries to carry out an urgent assessment of the status of resettlement farms and what it will be required to improve productivity.
No timelines were announced.
Ongombo, which was expropriated and apportioned by government to a group of landless Namibians in 2005, has become a white elephant as the fertile land lies idle.
The farm, which thrived under the Wiese family but lost it in an expropriation act instigated by labour unions, currently lacks farming infrastructure, as vandalism and lack of care became a regular occurrence under the watchful eye of the families resettled on the facility.
It was the first farm to be expropriated in Namibia following a dispute between the farm owners and workers.
Prior to its expropriation, the 4 007-hectare Ongombo West was mainly used to produce flowers for the European markets, and exported around 150 000 flowers a year.
Government had bought the farm for N$3,7 million from owner Hilde Renate Wiese, who had demanded around N$9 million because of the farm’s well-developed infrastructure.
President Geingob, during a Cabinet session yesterday to conduct a post-mortem and review of the resolutions of the recently concluded second national land conference, said it was time the farm’s full potential is exploited.
“Where there is not enough water, lets us provide water. Where there is not sufficient agricultural equipment and seeds, let us see what we can do to turn around the situation. I challenge you to ensure that farm Ongombo West is turned around from its current status, to again start exporting flowers to Europe. Through partnering with skilled commercial farmers, and the setting up of a cooperative this can be done,” Geingob said.
He said there is an urgent need to ensure government-owned land became more productive.
Geingob said since the willing-buyer-willing seller is now in suspension, for a start, the focus should be on land where Namibians have already been resettled.
He directed the full resettlement list should be completed and shared with the Namibian public.
Equally, he vowed government can no longer afford to deprive northern communal farmers from wealth creation by leveraging on their land and livestock.
Therefore, he called on the ministry of agriculture to accelerate completion and renovation of abattoirs as well as construction of additional abattoirs in places such as Eenhana, Rundu, and Katima Mullilo.
He directed the Ministry of Finance to use the powers vested in it by the Procurement Act to accelerate directives that will allow farmers north of the cordon fence to provide beef and crops for consumption in government owned entities north of the redline.
Geingob said those amendments should take effect before the end of this year.
He said government will see how they can exit from existing contracts that were entered into based on criteria in the bidding documents that effectively excluded northern communal farmers from participating in procurement of beef from consumption by government owned entities.
“Let me caution you – hosting a conference successfully is not a reason to celebrate. The real work began on Friday evening [5 October 2018]. As the apex chamber of executive authority, and in your respective capacities as heads of ministries, you have your work cut-out. By now, you must have started to prepare sectorial plans and responses in line with the resolutions,” Geingob told his Cabinet ministers.
He said an inclusive conference gave them the mandate to commence the journey of land justice with the urgency it deserves.
“In my closing remarks, which you must internalise, I made it clear that I don’t want to hear explanations as to why this or that cannot be done. I don’t want to hear about money and bureaucratic delays. The conference laid challenges bare, and also highlighted the lack of accountability, which has led to high levels of mistrust in what we as government are doing on the land question.”
“Some of you will ask for more money for this and for that. Not every solution is dependent on financial resources; we must begin to solve problems innovatively by starting with what we have, and learning to do more with less. You can’t solve problems by throwing money at them - when the root cause of the problem is the absence of policy and poor implementation. There are quick wins and low-hanging fruits that will require determination and not necessarily more money in your budgets,” he reacted.