Traditional leaders want more support for farmers

Most Traditional leaders in the country have bemoaned the lack of financial support for communal farmers who they feel are not getting the needed assistance in the same manner as their counterparts in commercial farming.
Traditional authorities feel the asymmetric relationship that exist between commercial and communal faming has naturally led to a one sided concentration of all government financial support, according to tradition leaders who administer land for farming in communal areas.
This has resulted in most communal farmers failing to improve their production for both subsistence and for the market. Research by The Villager also shows that although Government believes there is an equitable distribution of financial resources to both commercial and communal farmers most funding programmes meant to improve output from the later are not yielding the much needed results.
Chairman of the Council of Traditional Leaders, Chief Immanuel /Gaseb, a communal farmer, programs adopted by government to assist land reform and farm development in communal areas has little chance of success due to inadequate financial support.
Chief /Gaseb said the major challenge faced by most communal farmers in accessing financial assistance form institutions such Agribank which specialise in provision of such services was failure to submit costly commercial-like business plans and collateral.
In some instances communal farmers are left stranded without funding because most banks in the country would require complex surerity measures before they can avail resources to them. In most cases communal farmers are unable to provide such collateral requirements as they solely rely on the title deeds or lease agreements they get from government to control their land.
 "Agribank loans require collateral and the problems is that most communal farmers do not have collateral to qualify for the loan. As a result small farmers have nowhere else to go, it is obvious that most government funds are going to large farming projects," Chief /Gaseb said.
He said the requirement for business and strategic plans was not appropriate for small-scale farmers who are currently falling through the cracks.
At a meeting with communal famers in the East and West regions of Kavango last month, Agribank Chief Executive Officer Leonard Ipumbu noted that there was a lack of interest to access government funds and the reason was found to be the requirements such as collateral, encouraged farmers to apply for loans without collateral.
"The CEO said government is working to develop an integrated funding model that supports communal farmers. He encouraged farmers to apply for loans and other benefits to help improve their faming," said a communal farmer Stephanus Mukuya who attended the meeting.
Ukwangali Chief Eugene Siwombe also added that there is need for a clear distinction between support for commercial ventures and basic farming support for small-scale farmers.
"There has been a lack of financial support for communal farmers and that's no question. I think that all public agricultural support programmes should be redesigned and consolidated into an all-inclusive fund for land acquisition, mentorship, agricultural finance and market access," said the Chief Siwombe.
Some analyst also feel that the failure by Government to beef up support to communal farmers could be one of the major reasons for persistent shortage of food in communal setups while others argue that an improved funding model to communal farmers has a good potential in improving productivity.