Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on many sectors of the Namibia economy. Evidence hereof is the accelerated liquidation of the national airline, Air Namibia.

Surely Air Namibia may not be the first and the last. Many others are certain to follow in view of the forecast protracted recovery of the local economy. Another sector that has been feeling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Namibia, is the tourism sector, with one of its subsector, trophy hunting, equally heavily affected and impacted. One is reminded of the lucrative era in this subsector ushered in by Namibia’s independence when many farmers enmasse took the hunting farm route with the attendant mushrooming of travelling lodges and related ventures.

This saw a mass movement of farmers away from traditional farming in livestock, especially cattle herding, into wildlife farming. Partly to preempt their farms being perceivably expropriated without compensation by the new incoming black majority government.

Thirty 31 years after, expropriation of land and/or farms without compensation has been proven to be just an unfounded fear of landowners in Namibia, most of them whites, and a substantial number absentee land barons. Fast track to 2020, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, there seems to be a U-turn back to livestock production. With commissioned studies by organised and structured agriculture in the country endorsing the future of livestock production. A renewed renaissance in livestock production. Along this renaissance there has also been a new realisation among organised commercial farmers, an euphemism for white farmers, that they cannot go it alone without especially black farmers.

In this regard there lately have been measured and calculated overtures to emerging black commercial farmers. But still there seems to be a continued blatant and deliberate oversight of an equally not so negligible livestock production sector in the seeming doldrums of Namibia’s communal hinterlands. Areas in the regions of Omaheke and Otjozondjupa, and Erongo to some extent, are undeniably predominantly frontrunners, if no the foremost leading producers of livestock in Namibia.

But which by design have been receiving scant attention than they deserve. Areas where the laws of the free market do not seem to apply in terms of the suppliers and/or producers determining the price of their produce, if not the so-called free market.

The precarious and untenable predicament of communal producers in Namibia is well known as has been to the authorities. Testifying to this is the former President Hifikepunye Pohamba in his State of the Nation Address in 2014 when he referred to the Meatco Bill. “Is aimed at securing greater participation of our communal farmers in the commercial marketing of cattle, and indeed a fairer representation in the meat industry,” he said. That must have good news to communal farmers. Seven years down the line, the good intentions of the Government with regard to Meatco, and subsequently communal farmers as per Pohamba, seems but a pipedream up to now.

Yours Truly Ideologically cannot but also go back further to 2009 when this very same important matter of the marketing of cattle from communal Omaheke enjoyed high attention at the region’s economic conference. We are now in 2021 and not much has changed in this regard. Not only this but this vexed question has graced many an agenda of various fora to no avail. Only to hear the overtures of commercial farmers in 2021.

One cannot but appreciate such overtures. But can communal farmers in Namibia be expected to be equal partners and participants in whatever livestock marketing model is hatched in 2021, and beyond, with the marketing playing fields as unlevelled as they are? Against communal livestock producers, and in favour of their commercial counterparts?

“The situation currently facing the Omaheke communal farmers, and one that is not akin to this region or isolated to it, is that they are and never been in any position to determine the price of their main product. This is despite the lie of the law of demand and supply determining such prices. On the contrary an exploitative cartel fronted by so-called auctioneering houses, buyers, and if you like some financial institutions, seem to be in an unholy alliance to be perpetuating ferociously their vicious grip over livestock marketing in the communal areas of Namibia, with single buyers presenting sellers with fait accompli fixed prices.” Yours Truly Ideologically observed in 2009 writing as Kae on Friday.

This observation is as much relevant and alive today. As genuine as commercial farmers may be in their overtures, such must be guided by the realisation of the harsh reality that communal livestock producers in Namibia cannot be equal and worthy partners with their commercial counterparts, until and when there is not only a change of attitude in their fellow commercial farmers towards their fellow communal counterparts. But also until and when whatever marketing model is contemplated and eventually hatched, is done with the fullest appreciation and regard to the current eccentricities of communal farming.

And also at the same time fully recognising that communal livestock producers from the communal areas already mentioned, are the bedrock of livestock production in Namibia. Simply piggybacking communal livestock producers on the backs of their commercial counterparts is and cannot be the answer. Same it takes self organisation and independence as producers by communal farmers, of course with the full backing of their Government, for them to be worthy and meaningful producers together with their commercial fellows. If they are to agitate for a marketing model that takes them serious as worthy producers.

Currently livestock production in Namibia is dialectical and diametrically an opposite of their fellow communal producers. They are not for all intents and purposes not so much producers, owning the means of production, but own nothing with everything owned by the vicious Capitalist cartel of commercial farmers, auctioneers and financial institutions ruling the roost. This is what must change if any overtures are to have any meaningfulness.