Socio-economic development, food security, and the massive potential of agriculture that are preached every day will not be achieved if the country does not guarantee water security.
This is the warning of the minister of agriculture, water and land reform, Calle Schlettwein, during his keynote address at the opening of the 2022 Tsumeb Copper Festival last week.
“It all starts with water supply security without which socio-economic development is impossible and the assurance for food security is non-existent,” Schlettwein explained.
He emphasised the criticality of investment in, and effective stewardship of the water resource as an indispensable enabler for households and economic activities
The government is rolling out a National Water Sector Support Program that is jointly funded by the government, NamWater, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and KfWwith N$10 billion to achieve secure bulk and rural water supply over the medium to long term.
Schlettwein has also reminded the country of the value of agriculture when it comes to the livelihood of the majority of the population.
“We recognise nationally that agriculture is a direct or indirect source of livelihoods for about 70% of Namibians and the highest employer after the government. Beyond income-generation for the locals, there are new lenses to look at agriculture and water supply security, the lenses of the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing conflict involving Ukraine and Russia,” he said.
He added that the sector has a high ability to reduce poverty through the generation of per capita income for individuals and households, and erosion of income inequalities through wealth-based empowerment opportunities.
Schlettwein said increased national productive capacity will lead to more self-reliance, and resilience.
He, however, noted that such priority will only be realised through productive diversification of economic activity, expansion of production possibilities across value chains in the economy, and the creation of jobs and self-employment opportunities, while mainstreaming gender, women, and the youth in income-generating opportunities.
A PARADIGM SHIFT AND PRIORITY CHANGE REQUIRED
“For the agricultural sector, the shift in priorities is moving away from relying on trade for food security, towards food self-sufficiency,” Schlettwein stated.
He said the policy priority requires much improved productive capacity in agriculture and effective utilisation of the land resource while investing in water resource generation, distribution and management.
To this end, Schlettwein said that his ministry and the government are re-purposing the Green Schemes from the state-run schemes to attract private capital and operational efficiency in the management and operation of the schemes, while taking into account local participation and integration with the livestock sector.
As for the livestock sub-sector, which is the mainstay for the majority of farmers, the minister noted that the existence of excess niche market demand is a high priority.
According to Schlettwein, access to a niche market will provide the opportunity to improve domestic livestock’s productive capacity and to transform the sub-sector from a producer of raw materials by servicing best-paying markets with finished or intermediary products.
“This requires that registered abattoirs are put into productive use, value chain industries such as tanneries are harnessed, veterinary services are efficiently provided and the public sector institutional capacity is improved to serve the sector better,” he said.
On land, Schlettwein said that it is a critical factor whose productive utilisation is key to wealth creation and empowerment.
He said the government, central or sub-regional, employs rule-based approaches for access to land for individual, business or industrial use.
As a policy matter regarding the allotment and management of resettlement, the ministry is revising the resettlement criteria to, among others, ensure that productive utilisation of resettled land becomes an integral part of the resettlement criteria.
THE NEW GROWTH PATHS
Schlettwein acknowledged the country’s historical and current path of depending on non-renewable resources that have been mined out and depleted.
He said the country should now move to a continued path of prosperity with the ambition to enjoy the full benefits of the alternative economic opportunities held by the fourth industrial revolution and other sources of growth.
He said that the envisaged Green Hydrogen and hydrocarbon fuels projects are expected to add great momentum to the country’s growth prospects.
“This can be expanded towards a green metal industry. It is, however, imperative that the benefit flows must be felt in the domestic economy, both for consumers and industry in terms of net-economic gains and cost efficiencies,” he said.
Schlettwein added that non-renewable mineral resource extraction comes with a limitation of less job intensity, less value addition, and fewer value chains in the domestic economy and, therefore, low inclusive growth.
This contrasts with high job content activities such as tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, services, and SMEs, he pointed out.
Since non-renewable resources are finite resource, utilisation activity and resource rents must support local economic development and diversification for sustainable livelihoods over the long term, he added.
“Economic diversification will then mitigate dependency on resource extraction and anchor sustainability when non-renewable resources thin out,” said the minister.
The agri-policymaker has also emphasised for the country’s new growth pathways to embrace inclusive growth composition, with more job content and per capita income flows as distinct from a high jobless growth trajectory with limited impact on unemployment, poverty and inequalities.