The ministry of Sports, Youth and National Service, in an effort to inspire youth to take up income-generating projects, last week handed over small-scale horticulture projects to youths from Omaheke and Khomas regions.
The project was rolled off last week at Dordabis, some 60km east of Windhoek, as well as in Gobabis in the Omaheke region. Both towns have a high number of unemployed youths, most of them with inadequate skills to land jobs.
The objective of this self-employment project, according to the line minister, Agnes Tjongarero, is to increase the skills, productivity and income potential of today and tomorrow’s out-of-school youth in peri-urban and rural areas, by testing cost-effective and scalable market-based solutions to strengthen micro-entrepreneurship opportunities and to build the institutional infrastructure for future interventions in this area.
According to the project’s model, seven youths from each region will be initially trained on running small-scale horticulture projects at the ministry’s premises across the country. They will then be expected to take over the project after training and run it on business principles.
Within a year, the first batch of youth is expected to hand over the project to other youths in line to benefit from it on a revolving basis. They would at that time be expected to be in a position to start up their project before handing over.
Tjongarero said the project seeks to provide 84 disadvantaged young men and women between the ages 16-34 years with access to business development services through horticulture to realise their full economic potential. Thereafter, more young people will take up this opportunity and scale it up to all constituencies. The project’s geographic scope would include all 14 regions to ensure entire country coverage.
With 62% of Namibia’s economically active population being youth between the age group 15 to 35 years, according to the Namibia Statistic Agency, 2018, Namibia has a bulging young population.
Regrettably, of the unemployed rate, most are youth. It is, therefore, government’s strategic intent to develop and harness this human resource capacity to contribute towards employment creation and self-employment driven economic growth, propelled by the youth.
Tjongarero said the project accords a rare opportunity to would-be entrepreneurs in the area of horticulture to set off their ambitions.
“We all know that young people want to start businesses, yet the established business rate among adults is substantially higher than it is for youth. This implies that young people face higher barriers to entrepreneurship than adults and we know that youth-led enterprises also primarily employ their peers, which could potentially catalyse more quality job creation in an enabling environment.
“Hence, the ministry felt the need to ensure that the youth self-employment project is established and strengthened to ensure that young people become self-reliant,” she said.
Speaking at the same event, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in Namibia, Farayi Zimudzi said agriculture remains a key driving force for economic development in the SADC region and Namibia is no exception.
She said this was mainly since the majority of our inhabitants rely on agriculture directly or indirectly as their main source of livelihood.
In addition to sustaining livelihoods, the agricultural sector also has the potential to be a catalyst for economic growth and food security.
Zimudzi said despite the sector’s importance, the full participation of women and particularly the youth remains a concern.
“With the average age of the Namibian farmer being 68 years, and with ever-increasing migration by young people to urban areas in search of jobs, there is an urgent need to encourage and support the youth to participate in the agricultural sector and its rebranding,” she said.
Zimudzi noted that the majority of the ageing farmers operate in rural areas and generally practice traditional subsistence farming where methods are typically low yielding, with limited value addition, processing and marketing.
Given this status quo of an ageing farmer population, it is naturally expected that the sector will be negatively impacted both in terms of agricultural production and productivity, she noted.
The project is being rolled out to other regions over the course of this year.