NNFU not happy with Ministry of Agriculture on levies

The Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU); an organisation, which prides itself as the voice of the Namibian farmers, is up in arms against  Government over levies.
The NNFU dissatisfaction was sparked as the organisation raises a considerable percentage of its revenue collection from levies that Government now wants to do away with.
The matter was at the top of the NNFU agenda during the 2011 national council’s held on Friday and resolutions to that effect are yet to be released.
The organisation runs on an operating budget of between N$2m and N$4m annually. The budget, according to the union, is raised from levy charges of between 40% to 50% of which are paid by the Namibian meat producers. The remaining is mainly covered by local and international donors through the union’s fund raising efforts.
The union is now disputing efforts to eliminate the collection of levies from farmers stating that this is among the ways in which unions generate their income.
 “We’re going to have our constitutional meeting, which forms the second highest decision making body where the NNFU will among other things, take stock of the recent developments within the agricultural sector, most importantly, Government’s decision to stop farmers from paying levies,” said NNFU Executive Director, Olof Munjanu on the eve of the council, adding that, “The Ministry has decided on getting rid of the levies payment by farmers and this is by far the only way in which organisations like ours that lobbies for the agricultural welfare of the country, can generate money for our survival.”
The NNFU is registered as an association not for gain in accordance with the provisions of section 21 of the Company Act (Act No. 61 of 1973), the official registration number of which is: 21/98/529.
The union, through its education and advocacy policy is promoting the active participation of small-scale farmers in the design of a conducive and an enabling agricultural policy environment, as well as the implementation of national agricultural policies, laws, projects and schemes.
The body further has an institutional strengthening programme through which it assists local farmers in order to create vibrancy at grassroots levels that allow for complimentary actions. They further are getting into giving out pieces of business advice to communal farmers in order to assist them into taking informed decisions during the marketing of their produces as well as their bargaining power, based on farmers at the market place.
While this could be a useful element to the union’s operations, the NNFU does not have the mandate to provide material support to projects at local villages but it does assist its development partners during the implementation of pilot projects, especially when it comes to demonstrating the feasibility of the aforementioned projects’ feasibility as well as the hand over of projects to local farmers’ organisations for further implementation.   
But the concern on the levy issue is not the only burning matter the farmers’ union wants to tackle this season. The Meatco ownership saga is another hot potato that has captured the attention of the union. “Government wants a cut in Meatco but the holistic decision of the farmers is for the entity to remain a co-operative. We are engaging Government on this matter and it was one of the hot topics at the weekend meeting,” Munjanu said.
Also discussed at the meeting this weekend – with pending resolutions – is the bush encroachment issue.
“Bush encroachment remains a big problem that needs urgent attention and the farmers association wants Government to outsource the management of the land to it through TIPEEG,” Munjanu said.
The proposed outsourcing of communal auction kraals in rural areas was said to be another bone of contention. The kraals, according to the union, used to be communally run but since August this year, the Ministry has decided to put a tender out. “This gives advantage to bigger entities like Agra and Namboer. Those are the same people who control auctions in more ways than one and this will be like giving them too much control, thus weakening the bargaining power of the communal farmers,” Munjanu said.
While the NNFU takes note of the importance of feedlots, the matter is not high on its agenda as having feedlots in Namibia, according to communal farmers, could be an expensive exercise, more so when the scarcity of water in the country is taken into consideration. The union expressed its understanding of the need for feedlots in light of the country being a winner producer but for now, it is going to remain a road less travelled.
However, NNFU aims to increase food production for household security, enhance marketing of farming products to increase participation and recognition of woman in farming, contribute to environmental protection and sustainable utilisation of natural resources.