The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) has been accused of neglecting farmers in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs), leaving them stranded and to their own mercy.
A source from the Meat Board of Namibia, who opted to speak on condition of anonymity, told The Villager that the MAWF has not been doing enough to improve agricultural products in the NCAs, especially when it comes to livestock producers.
“The scale of operations for livestock farmers in the NCAs is very limited because their products are of poor quality. The Ministry of Agriculture must be active in ensuring that the difficulties faced by these farmers are met”, the source stated.
The source said out of the whole agricultural sector’s contributions, about 76% is garnered through livestock production, while the remaining 24% is contributed through crop-farming and forestry.
“From the 76% in livestock production, 70% comes from meat products produced by commercial farmers south of the veterinary cordon fence (VCF), and the remaining 6% comes from products produced by farmers in the NCAs”, the source explained.
Furthermore, it is not because NCA farmers are unable to meet the set standards of meat production, but they are simply not getting the support they need to make sure their animals are healthy and get the correct nutrition they need.
“It is very clear that the NCAs are not considered by foreign buyers as much as farmers in the Southern Cordon Fence (Commercial Farmers) are considered. This is mostly because of animal health issues. In the Southern Cordon Fence, animals are not infected with food-and-mouth disease (FMD) and lung sickness. They also don’t use hormones, which makes them profitable”, the source added.
Commercial farmers furthermore have benefits like cash-back and assurances of quality, a luxury NCA farmers can only dream of. Because of the low value of their livestock, NCA farmers are thus only using their animals for traditional use and own consumption.
“NCA farmers are not contributing much to the agricultural sector because their animal products are at a very low level, and they also do not benefit economically from their livestock production because they are not strongly organised and supported by the government”, the source continued.
The Meat Board of Namibia has implemented a project called the NCA Farmers’ Mentorship Programme, which trains the farmers on how to make sure their meat products can be up to standard.
“The project has been running for five years now, but NCA farmers need more than what they are currently having to make it onto the commercial scenery”, the source said.
Furthermore, the Namibia Livestock Identification and Traceability System (NamLITS), which was implemented by the MAWF, was not being effectively utilised as NCA animals have not excelled in the marketing scene the way they are supposed to.
NamLITS comprises the tagging and registration of individual animals. Using a computerised database, the identification and traceability system records key animal events (such as movement history, animal health, vaccination and laboratory tests, slaughter, sales and death) throughout the animal’s life cycle.
As part of this initiative, the Ministry is aiming to integrate livestock farmers north of the VCF into the main marketing system.
Farmers in the NCA regions comprise the Caprivi, Kavango, Oshikoto north of the VCF, Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati, Kunene north of the VCF and the Tsumkwe area in the Otjozondjupa Region.