RAIN dependent Namibia experienced a slow start to the current season, but fortunately towards the end of March onwards, the situation has changed for the better with dam levels set to rise to levels close to last year. Thankfully so, as winter is upon us and then comes the long and patient wait for the next season’s unpredictable rainfall.
The first period of the rainy season was very poor as well as the beginning of this year, but the current rainfall may not be enough to sustain the land until the next rainy season. Farmers of all types, be they commercial, communal of subsistence have since time immemorial experienced problems emanating from limited grazing on the land, insufficient rainfall for cultivating crops and generally poor farming conditions in this arid part of the African sub-continent.
But this is not the end of the world as there are many other low rainfall geographical regions of the world where better farming methods coupled with government support has resulted in agriculture thriving and countries become self-sufficient, when it comes to feeding themselves.
Since the country attained its nationhood in 1990 government has requested of livestock farmers that they reduce their cattle herd and generally pressed for destocking. It is my view that the time has come for government to review and radically change its strategy. Rather than discouraging farmers, to encourage them to produce more.
Despite the challenges routinely encountered by farmers, agriculture has and will continue to be the largest contributor to Namibia’s economy in terms of GDP. The same is true when it comes to measuring employment or job creation by the farming sector and for the provision of most of the country’s people, with a decent, viable and sustainable livelihood.
Government must now explore ways to encourage people to rather farm in a viable and sustainable manner. Not only commercial farmers, but communal and subsistence farmers too. Put in place support programmes that serve to help farmers during times of need. How to access funding for input needs, equipment and infrastructure development on farms, no matter how big or how small, in an easier manner.
Then government must also develop and put in place strategies and programmes to help farmer’s access markets for what they have to offer, in turns of produce. In addition put in place mentorship and farming skills development programmes. Not only for new farmers, but even for those who have been farming for years, but who might be practicing outdated farming methods.
Agriculture extension officers must be recruited and properly trained. People with passion for farming and for helping others farm better. They must then be deployed at the frontline of farming within communities. Become part and parcel of a community in which they then live and work. This system has worked well in countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania and should be replicated right here in Namibia.
Another practical way to encouraging the practice of proper farming will be to encourage and facilitate linkages between communal and commercial farmers. This can be done by putting taxation incentives in place for the established commercial farmers to render assistance to small scale or communal farmers when they help transport produce to markets, provide the chemicals needed to dip animals, insecticides and pesticides, among others,
Farmers are subjected to the vagaries of rain, market insecurity and the lack of skills and knowledge to migrate from practicing outdated farming methods. Must, with renewed focus, be taught how to use water more sparingly and efficiently, in times of drought, guided on the importance of rotational use of land and how to manage natural resources much better. It is only in this way can Namibia become a nation that feeds itself in the bad and in the good times too.
Let us never ever forget that farming activities plays a major role in the country’s economy.
Benestus Kandundu is a former Councillor of City of Windhoek, founder of Otjozondjupa Communal Farmers Union and co-founder of NNFU. He writes in his personal capacity.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015