Small holder farmers can reduce food import bill

Tujoromajo Kasuto

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Anna Shiweda says that there is a large food deficit and a wide food import gap of about 47 percent that Namibia, as a nation, needs to address.

The minister believes that this import gap presents ample opportunities for all Namibians to participate in agriculture production and agri-business in the Ohangwena region and beyond.

She shared these remarks at the occasion of International Agri-Food Confex at Eenhana in the region.

Agricultural sector is one of the most important pillars of the economy, with 70% of the population relying on agriculture for a living in terms of employment, income, and food security, particularly in rural areas, and the government making Green Schemes available to the private sector in order to encourage broader participation in the development of irrigated agronomic production.

For the Green Schemes the set target is to put 27 000 hectares under irrigation by 2030.

In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture is also spearheading the National Horticulture Initiative.

This Initiative aims to promote the production and marketing of fruits and vegetables, at the small and medium scale levels by supporting the establishment of collection points or centres for agricultural produce, such as vegetables and fruits.

‘’The ultimate objective of this effort is to reduce our over-dependency on imported fruits and vegetables while creating a market for our local producers. It is equally important to highlight that Agricultural Mechanisation and Technology is key for agriculture production. I am reliably informed that the process of signing contracts with the various suppliers of tractors with matching implements are at an advanced stage,’’ said the deputy minister.

The main objective of the Eenhana event is to create a platform for small-scale farmers to network, gain knowledge, exchange information and collaborate.

‘’I find this event befitting as Ohangwena Region is predominantly an agricultural region and a nucleus of the grain-Mahangu production. The Regional Council is, therefore, encouraged to continue organising events of this nature as they will not only stimulate agricultural production, but will also trigger value addition ventures and facilitate the marketing of agricultural products that are produced and processed in the Ohangwena Region and beyond,’’ she said.

Shiweda urged all current and prospective farmers and entrepreneurs to participate in the schemes and agricultural initiatives in order for Namibia to intensify agricultural production in the country with the common objective of realising national food self-sufficiency.

She said the government has been implementing policies and programmes, covering livestock, crop, horticulture, water and land reform sub-sectors, with the main objective of eradicating poverty and hunger in the country. However, poverty and hunger cannot be addressed by the Government alone given the magnitude of the problem.

‘’I would therefore like to call upon the private sector, non-governmental organisations, development partners and the media to team up with smallholder farmers in addressing the

challenges of food insecurity, unemployment and the impact of climate change,’’ she said.

Some of the projects government has considered over the years include identification of 11

agricultural value chain schemes, namely, the beef, horticulture, poultry and cereal value chain, to mention but a few.

Thus, the minister said that essentially, the onus is now on producers to adopt a business approach to agriculture, water and land reform sectors, by taking advantage of the enabling environment and existing agribusiness opportunities to contribute to the transformation and growth of these important sectors.

‘’All these value chains present upstream and downstream agribusiness opportunities that can be explored by both large and small farmers and entrepreneurs, particularly the youth as youth unemployment level in this region is documented to be on the high side,’’ she said. She further urged the youth in the region not to miss this opportunity and learn as much as possible from this event in order to equip themselves with the required knowledge and information that will enable them to qualify for the youth support financial packages that are available at various financial institutions, such as Agribank and the Development Bank of Namibia.

‘’The Ohangwena Region presents a number of opportunities in terms of agricultural production and agribusiness development. This is so particularly in view of the underground water resources that are in the process of being developed under Phase II of the Ohangwena Aquifer.

Consequently, once fully developed there will be no reason why green schemes cannot be established in this region,’’ said Shiweda.

By Observer