Farmers who have been moved through the government’s resettlement programme to address land redistribution continue to face a slew of obstacles.
Lack of training, paucity of water, insufficient money, limited farming implements, and bush encroachment are only a few of the many obstacles impeding successful farming activities by resettled farmers in the Otjozondjupa region.
This was revealed on Monday during an oversight visit to resettlement farms in the Otjozondjupa district by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources.
The Committee is visiting the Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions to assess productivity at resettlement farms, as well as to determine whether the government is providing any assistance in terms of financing and training, and the role of resettlement farmers in creating jobs and increasing food self-sufficiency as part of efforts to alleviate poverty.
Swapo member of parliament Vincent Mareka leads the delegation, which also includes parliamentarians Jan Van Wyk and Mike Venaani.
During visits to both the Okapuka and Sumas farming units, Mareka emphasised that Namibia, with its abundant fertile land, has the potential to be self-sufficient, adding that the government must fully support farmers by providing both training and financial assistance during the pre- and post-resettlement phases.
“We cannot continue to import 80% of our food requirements from outside when we have so much fertile land and water. Agriculture should be able to unlock our potential. We should be able to diversify our crops in order to feed ourselves and create employment. The Russia and Ukraine war is wake up call. For us to solve the issue of food imports, we need to support our local farmers by offering training, funds and helping them with access to a market”, Marekaimplored.
Stanley Sitali, one of the resettled farmers in the Okapuka agricultural units who employs over six employees, praised the government’s resettlement initiative but highlighted that what has been lacking is government support as farmers are forced to fend for themselves.
“We commend government for this resettlement programme but the assistance given to beneficiaries has been very minimal. Water has been a challenge for me and I had to find means to drill my own boreholes which is a very costly exercise. Water scarcity has been a hindrance for me to keep enough large livestock as water available is only enough for domestic use and gardening”, Sitali said.
He went on to say that as a relocated farmer, his lease agreement did not enable him to keep more than 200 cattle, as required by the agricultural ministry to prevent overgrazing and soil degradation.
He also urged the government to implement a strategy to aid farmers with de-bushing, which has shown to be both labour intensive and costly.
Another farmer, Elia Akwaake had similar feelings, noting that his designated farm unit of 1795 hectares was insufficient for him to completely enter into commercial farming because he is only allowed to keep 200 cattle.
He advised that the government consider expanding the amount of hectares available to farmers to at least 3000 in order for them to engage in meaningful agricultural activity.
“I don’t understand how government came up with this size. These hectares are too little to do any commercial farming. It is also hard to get financing from the bank as we are only permitted to get a once off amount of N$200 000 as resettled farmers. I had to use my own property as collateral to secure enough funds from Agribank to develop this farm”, Akwaakesaid.
Despite relative success at farm Sumas, Unit A, about 20 kilometres north east of Otavi, encompassing an area of over 4,800 hectares and inhabited by eleven Etupe cooperative members, a number of similar issues were also discovered.
Gebhard Ashipala, a cooperative member, stated that access to the market for his agricultural produce, which includes vegetables and maize, is limited.
This situation is exacerbated by poor road infrastructure and a lack of government help. Water scarcity is another issue that has slowed progress at the farm, which employs over 13 people.
Ashipala urged the government to provide a favourable climate for the country’s food producers to easily sell their products. He made other requests for additional training and financial assistance.
The National Resettlement Policy of 2001 guides the resettlement plan. Under the programme, the government purchases farms from commercial farmers and leases them to previously disadvantaged Namibians.