Is Industrialisation possible without an Agricultural revolution?

“Africa has not initiated an agricultural revolution that is able to sustain a positive growth of agricultural and food production per capita and per rural household.

Yet it is the condition to industrialisation, urbanisation and social development. In Africa, the production and the productivity per rural household have remained stagnant if not declined in some regions. Under such conditions, rural emigration is not a result of a relative over-population created by agricultural growth but it is a desperate escape of populations trying to evade rural hunger. This type of emigration results in monstrous urbanisation, without hope for industry to take charge of the influx and without generating any source of funding new activities.”

Writes late Professor Samir Amin in his paper Ideology and Development in Sub-Sahara Africa which he presented to the Pan-African Conference on Thirty Years of Independence: Results and Prospects. Right here in Windhoek when Namibia was only two months old. Namibia is now 33 years old. One would have thought she may have not only learned a lesson or two from such an insightful presentation by not only one of Africa’s eminent intellectuals and academics but an ideologist of note. But she does not seem to have learnt anything at all. Because for all intents and purposes the development trajectory of Namibia is not clear and has never been clear.

If anything and at best, it has been kaleidoscopic as it has been eclectic, politically and ideologically. For better or worse reflecting the country’s development trajectory that has been seeming rather more than a trial and error without any clear and firm policies in every field of socio-economic endeavour.

Yours Truly Ideologically is particularly spurred on to reflect on the paper of Professor Amin, having stumbled in one of the local dailies recently on an article regarding irrigational land in Namibia with only 21% thereof having been used. Why that is the case, albeit the article the government has not been able to explain with no study done as yet to establish the fact. But this is typical of how the country’s affairs has been run since independence. But more than anything else, it is indicative of the trial and error basis of governance which, most of the time is not based on any clear ideology.

True to Professor’s Amin’s paper, Namibia’s economy, not to mention the agricultural sector, since independence has seen stagnation if not retrogression. Cognisant of the negative impact of the global economic downturn, one can equally not run away from the fact that, partially, the problem is and has been one of the country’s and her political and civil service captains’ own making. Agriculture in colonial Namibia, the inhibitions of the Apartheid colonial capitalist economy notwithstanding, even in rural areas, was a backbone of subsistence, almost to the extent that hunger was unheard of, even starvation.

This can no longer be said to be the case today. With strangely one of the regions of the country known for its agricultural exploits, especially animal husbandry, now being a bedrock of starvations. This is the Omaheke Region, where and which has registered a substantial number of deaths from hunger. This region and its rural bantustans, and as much and those of many others and their rural environs, were in the days of Apartheid colonial capitalism, a safe haven from urban destituteness, including hunger and starvation.

Even during years of drought, still one would have a cup of omaere (traditional milk) to take one through the day for another cup later as it would be. Not today. What has gone wrong? It is not difficult to imagine because the signs are all there. Agriculture, while admittedly one of the biggest employer, if not the biggest, no longer seems to be a priority as far as the Namibian government is concerned. The sector has not been one of the biggest employer and contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) only, but its role in livelihoods sustenance, especially in the rural areas, is undeniable as it has been significant if not most significant. Which is no longer the cease as testified by rural urban migration today in Namibia, which is and has been increasing from year to year. With the rural areas retrogressing more into the economic backyards and hinterland that they were during colonialism. The stagnancy Professor Amin refers to in his paper.

Namibia finds herself in the pertaining situation of rural backwardness simply because there has been no ideological and political will to reverse the rural-urban divide with conscious and firm and well defined policies and/or drive. Other than by and with the usual political mumbo jumbo.

Testimony thereof is the fact that only 21% of the total irrigation land in the country is currently in use. Not only this as it is now well known that some, if not most of the green schemes, have run aground and there’s zero production on them. It would be any wonder if they shall ever return to production.

Not to mention the fact that in the first place the government’s embarking on such schemes is and has never been clearly defined, if ever it was well thought out, especially from an ideological point of view. With the defining notion being one of food security. Food security in a country of people now dying from hunger is incomprehensible as it is unworkable. Because food security does not and cannot speak to lack of food at the household level.

Yours Truly Ideologically is tempted to postulate that more than anything, the green schemes were motivated, by surplus value. Which speaks to the lack and/or want of a clear philosophy and ideology at best about the essence of the whole agricultural sector. With emphasis by the political and economic bourgeoisie more on industrialisation. “The ultimate reasons of development failure in Sub-Sahara Africa is that this region has not initiated the world of intensive agricultural process. While this necessary agricultural revolution implies an industrialisation which has not been initiated,” writes Professor Amin. Namibia what is what and which is which?

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