On 26 February 2019, a food security conference was held at protea hotel in Windhoek, which I attended too. One of the key presenters at the gathering who really caught my attention was the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) Chief Executive Officer Dr Fidelis Mwazi Nyambe. The mandate of NAB is to promote agronomic industry and to facilitate production, processing, storage and marketing of controlled product through market regulation as per Agronomic Industry Act 20 of 1992.
In his splendid presentation, he urged the Namibian government to support agricultural projects in order to ensure national food security. The determined Nyambe connoted that, the national demand for white maize grain for 2017/2018 in Namibia was 127,143 tons. This seemed impossible for the Namibian grain farmers to produce such a huge quantity due to financial constrains and the issue of climate change Namibia face contemporary. He further stated that, rain fed farmers only produced 30664 tons (24 percent) of white maize grain during the stated period, irrigation maize farmers produced 45997 tons (36 percent) and 50483 tons of maize (40 percent) was imported.
On the other hand, the national demand of horticulture for 2017/2018 was 81,452 tons. Namibia exported 55358 (40 percent) and imported 52853(39 percent) of horticulture products. Irrigation farmers produced 28599 tons (21 percent) horticulture products. Moreover, Dr Mwazi spoke about the agronomic and horticulture production per zone in Namibia. They are seven agronomic and horticulture zones in Namibia which are North Central, Karst, Kavango, Zambezi, Central, South and Orange River. Within these zones, grain production volumes and horticulture production volumes were recorded for 2017/2018 planting season. For grain production volumes which include white maize, wheat and pearl millet North Central zone produced 1%, Karst 48%, Kavango 25%, Zambezi nine percent Central 12 percent, South five percent and Orange River zero percent. For horticulture production volumes which includes all fresh fruits and vegetables, North Central zone produced four percent, Karst 25 percent, Kavango five percent, Zambezi one percent, Central eight percent, South five percent and Orange River 52 percent.
Shockingly, the Namibian newspaper of 14 June 2019 reported that; the Cabinet had given a go ahead to a Chinese company called Namibia Oriental Tobacco CC to grow tobacco on a 10 000 hectare farm at Liselo in the Zambezi Region. It is sadly to also observe that, this project has being approved under the watch of the Mafwe Traditional Authority senior management. Taking into consideration of the Zambezi Region performance in both horticulture and grain production volumes, how essential is this tobacco project to the Namibian nation and Zambezi Region in particular other than the creation of employment as those in support of the project say? Statistics clearly show that, the Zambezi Region is underperforming in all sectors of agriculture despite its agricultural potential. Why is the government of Namibia so reluctant to invest in the region where Namibia’s most fertile pieces of land is found?
Well, still I do not understand why the central government has not realized the agricultural potential of the Zambezi Region. It is so disappointing to learn that, Namibia’s most fertile land will be used to grow tobacco instead of cereal crops or utilized for horticulture production to maximize the country’s food security. We are spending billions of money to import food commodities from other countries to feed our population of just 2.3 million people while we have the Zambezi with agricultural potential. It is of paramount importance to realize the dangers of some of these Chinese projects. I do not support this destructive idea of growing tobacco at all; this piece of land was supposed to be utilized productively.
Other regions have benefited from so many economic viable projects, which have improved our people’s living standards while the Zambezi Region has suffered economically. Our leaders should be considerate. We need sound economic projects; Zambezi is not a playground. For those who want land to embark on destructive projects, the Namib Desert is open for business. We cannot utilize our most fertile land to grow tobacco. I would like to see the government of the day, if possible to pump millions of money to support agricultural projects for the betterment of our people in the Zambezi Region.
* Reagan Munyungano Musisanyani, Food Security Activist, Windhoek.