… Becoming the doyen of academic research
AFTER completing her first degree at the University of Namibia (Unam), Dr Elina Amadhila (EA) discovered her love for research. Today, she is the proud holder of a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and a Master of Arts(MA) from Unam and a PhD in Development Finance from the University of Stellenbosch. She is currently a research methodology lecturer in the Department of Management Sciences at the local university. Elina is celebrated for having worked on various research projects and also as a consultant on projects related to agricultural investments in Namibia, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Information Training & Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA). Her latest report from this consultancy work focused on key challenges and opportunities for youth and agri-entrepreneurs working along agricultural value chains to carry out and benefit from responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in Namibia. Her portfolio includes Agricultural Finance, Inequalities and Welfare Issues, Business and Economic Development and Education. In an interview with Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN), Elina spoke passionately about her love for research and its importance, imparting knowledge to her students and her love for travelling.
MN: Briefly tell us about yourself and upbringing?
EA:I grew up in Ongwediva. We didn’t have much as a family but I had a very happy childhood. My parents were neither rich nor poor and always made time for myself and my sisters. My sisters and I were very close and continue to be. My mom was strict with us and the disciplinarian in our household. She instilled discipline in us and that is what has shaped us to become disciplined individuals.
MN: Tell us about your education and career path?
EA: When I was at secondary school, I’d always wanted to work in a business environment so I thought a degree in Business Administration would help me achieve that. However when I finished my degree, I was employed as an Assistant Researcher at the Multi-Disciplinary Research Centre (MRC) of the University of Namibia and this is where my interest in research began. It wasn’t until after my second year at MRC that I was awarded a Post-graduate Research Fellowship to do my Masters’ degree in Arts where I focused on Barriers to Accessing Health Care Services in Namibia as part of a larger Multi-National Research Project. It was unfortunate that after completion of my masters’ degree, my employment at the MRC ended as I was employed on contract. Having a qualification in Business Administration and with a minor in Human Resources (HR), I was then employed at the Human Resources Department on a permanent basis at the University of Namibia but only stayed there for a year and moved to Stellenbosch in South Africa to pursue my PhD in Development Finance. I felt I wanted to continue doing research than administration work. I was assigned a mentor at that time, who helped me understand the field better. At that point I began mapping out a career plan, which has led me here. It was the combination of my own explorations, along with the guidance my instructors provided, that confirmed research was the right path for me.
MN: Tell us about some of your contribution to research projects related to agricultural investments in the country and results achieved.
EA:My contribution to research projects related to agricultural investments focused on four issues. The results of the study were compiled into four different but thematically connected research essays. The first essay on agriculture investigated the constraints to financing agriculture in Namibia from the perspectives of small- and medium-scale farmers and the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank). The findings on the supply side (Agribank) reveal constraints such as a lack of collateral and poor loan recovery from farmers while on the demand side, insufficient capital, bureaucracy and a lack of collateral were among some of the constraints preventing farmers from successfully financing their agricultural activities. Finance is found to be a binding constraint. The second essay identified financing options for agricultural SMEs (apart from Agribank). The essay indicated that only about 33% of formal financial institutions are providing finance to agricultural SMEs, with lack of expertise and perception of risk in financing agriculture cited as top reasons why formal financial institutions find it hard to provide finance to agricultural SMEs. On the demand side, the majority of non- Green Scheme farmers indicated that they were unaware of financing options in the country while those in Green Scheme projects pointed to Agribank as the only bank that they knew. The third essay assessed the agricultural SME finance gap. The estimated agricultural finance gap stands at N$63 520 512, with demand exceeding supply. On the demand side, problems causing the finance gap within Green Scheme farming projects include loan default and thus denial of further loans and lack of financial institutions in the country. On the supply side, loan default and dishonesty by farmers limits Agribank’s supply of loans, especially to small-scale communal farmers. The fourth essay asks what we can learn from successful nations in agricultural finance, such as Brazil and Indonesia, as compared to Namibia, given the above findings. The findings show that Agribank-supported Green Scheme projects in Namibia mark government’s effort in promoting agricultural productivity and access to finance by small- and medium-scale farmers. However, Namibia lacks agricultural financing expertise and farmers have poor access to markets, making it difficult to improve their farming practices. Brazil has adopted structured demand to promote access to markets and flexible repayment terms matched to production cycles. Indonesia addresses market failure in the agricultural industry through investing heavily in irrigation and improved provision of formal sector credit.
MN: In addition to your research, you focused on key challenges and opportunities for youth and agri-entrepreneurs. Tell us about these challenges and opportunities and why agriculture is important for the country?
EA: Agriculture is the main economic activity and provides food for the majority of people in most low- and middle-income countries. Some of the challenges and opportunities for youth and agri-entrepreneurs in Namibia are: Unemployment rate: youth unemployment reaches about 43.5%. The share of agriculture in government expenditure is significantly below the 10% spending budget of the 2014 Malabo declaration. In Namibia this investment is only at 4%. Lack of capacity of key ministries and other sectors to coordinate and collaborate with the youth There is also found to be limited awareness among youth of benefits of participation in policy making and coordination mechanisms. The current policy, legal and regulatory framework for agricultural investments already covers a broad range of areas ranging from youth, women and workers’ empowerment to access to land, finance, market and education. However, the need for financial, fiscal, and service related incentives that empower young farmers and agri-entrepreneurs operating along agricultural supply chains is excluded. There is lack of transparency in terms of tenure rights transfer under the Land Policy. Although youth specific programmes and policies exist, there require a revision as such instruments do not focus on agriculture in many instances. In rare cases where youth are included in coordination mechanisms in agriculture participation is low.
MN: You have studied extensively, worked in various areas and did a lot of research; how has that shaped you as a woman and professional?
EA: The PhD’s intensity and research in general makes an unwelcome dip in confidence, motivation and morale almost inevitable. It has bumpy roads but once you are determined, these bumpy roads and “falls” shape you to become the best person you can be. My accomplishments are great, but it is the failures that mean even more. Without them, I would not have the strength to get up even when I am faced with other challenges in life. Without failures, I would not know what accomplishments are. Without failures, I would not know how good it felt when I finally see something great in front of me that I worked so hard for.
MN: What advice do you have for fellow women and youth in particular on taking up studies and career in agriculture?
EA:Women are generally overlooked or under- valued as farmers by both men and women, at the household and community levels. Men in most societies are typically considered to be ‘the farmers’ and women to be only their helpers. I advise women to go for studies in agriculture and careers in agriculture, and maybe this perception can change. Women should be adopting and viewing agriculture as a field in which technology can be applied to improve production and increase output to satisfy consumer desires and preferences. If we are serious about development as a nation, then we need to support agriculture not just in studies and career but also in what we buy. Rather buy local food. Consumers need to support Namibian made products to be able to maintain the industry.
MN: Just what do you do for a little fun?
EA:Travelling and watching a nice movie.
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