. . . Agribank, Govt. come to the rescue


Agribank and the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement have embarked on the Farmers’ Support Project (FSP) to capacitate farmers – including resettled farmers.
Through this programme, the bank provides training and mentorship to farmers as per the specific needs of the individual farmers.
The FSP was financed by the German government to the tune of N$5m for over a period of three years starting January this year. Although the programme was initially meant for commercial farmers, Agribank, according to Regan Mwazi, boosted the fund with an additional N$2, 5m to cater for communal as well as resettled farmers.
The FSP is currently worth some N$7, 5m.
The project has a total of 29 mentors, of which 24 specialise in livestock while three in dry land crops with only two specialising in horticulture.
Since January this year, the mentors have made 2 915 visits of which 866 were made to resettled farmers primarily for mentorship linked to livestock farming.
Out of the total number of visits, 1 682 were made to communal areas and only 367 visits were paid to farms linked to the Affirmative Action Land Scheme (AALS).
Livestock farming appears to be the priority at farms acquired under the AALS as well as for resettled farmers. Of the total number of visits paid by the programme’s mentors to farmers,  2 308 visits were to farmers specialising in livestock and only 178 to horticulturalist while 429 visits were paid to dry land crop farmers.
“The visited dry land crop farmers and horticulturalist are in communal areas mainly in the north and south of the country,” said Mwazi.
Livestock farmers in rural areas received 1075 visits where conducted in communal areas.
“Our goal is to provide both communal and resettled farmers with the necessary know-how in order for them to eventually graduate into fully-fledged commercial farmers and make a meaningful contribution to our economy,” Mwazi said.
Director of Resettlement at the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, Alfred Mwala Sikopo told The Villager that the project was well received by the farmers especially the settled farmers.
“It is a Government project that is being implemented by Agribank and I can confirm that it was well received by the farmers,” Sikopo said.
The FSP aims to enhance the competencies of farmers while supporting them to improve their farming practices. It further aims to enhance the interaction between service providers in the agricultural industry, countrywide.
The FSP hosts regular farmers’ and information days to raise awareness and share information. Through the project farmers also get to attend Topic –related short courses and excursions. Pre-settlement orientation courses are offered to emerging farmers.
Settled farmers also get Joint Management approach on resettlement farms and in communal areas programme. The abovementioned will provide newly resettled farmers with insight on rangeland management and livestock management practices which in turn will help them in managing the limited number of camps.
With this programme, resettled farmers will also be trained in conflict resolution to help them deal with waterhole conflicts and fights that may arise over the use and maintenance of the infrastructure on the farms especially for beneficiaries of the group resettlement scheme.  
The programme, he revealed, is however dogged by a shortage of qualified mentors in various facets of farming across the country.
Also a thorny issue is the vast distances that the current crop of mentors have to travel in executing their duties.