NAMIBIA’S agricultural potential remains vast and this is not only because the country has a fair amount of available arable land, but also because it has a large and youthful workforce, as highlighted by the recently publicised Labour Force Survey, compiled by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA).
With the right investments, within this generation, Namibia could not only feed itself, but also the region, while also dramatically reducing its grain imports.
Agriculture is already central to the lives of Africans, providing 60 percent of jobs across the continent.
However, decades of underinvestment and reoccurring drought, have restricted productivity, reduced incomes and hindered nutritional and food security.
Yet, this formidable challenge is also an extraordinary opportunity, as investing in agriculture is one of the most direct ways of generating domestic, inclusive and sustainable growth.
Indeed, Namibia’s agriculture sector has seen steady improvement in recent years, as farmers have expanded into agribusiness, and a number of stakeholders have begun to sell their goods in regional and international markets.
Agricultural productivity and cereal yields have increased. However, agricultural yields and the returns, in terms of farming remain lower than in comparative regions, trapping many rural households in poverty.
Notably, as populations and cities expand, and the middle-class develops, a sharp increase in the demand for food imports has led to a negative agricultural trade balance, which is a macroeconomic challenge.
For this reason, government must begin to realise the importance of timing procurement schedules, to fit with agricultural seasons; thereby putting beneficiaries in the driving seat, to ensure successful results, while defining clear logistics for project interventions.
Like other hazards, the impacts of drought, which have been faced by Namibia over the years, span economic, environmental and social sectors, and can be reduced through mitigation and preparedness. Because drought is a normal part of climate variability for virtually all regions, it is important to develop plans to deal with these extended periods of water shortage, in a timely and systematic manner, as they evolve.
Adding value by replacing food imports with domestic products is also essential for economic stability and employment across the country. Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, must work tirelessly to improve the lives and livelihoods of Namibians involved in agriculture, and by helping women to get better access to land, finance and technology.
Young people can also secure sustainable jobs in agriculture-related industries.
In 2017, parts of Africa are once again in the grip of famine, underlining anew the importance of agriculture. This avoidable tragedy is caused by conflict and governance failures, while being exacerbated by climate change. Besides upgrading its emergency response, government needs to scale up investments in agriculture, to reinforce the resilience of fragile regions.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015