By: Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus
Small-scale farmers operating under some of the government’s green schemes projects have expressed dismay with the method used by the Northern Electricity Distribution company (Nored) to charge them for the power used to produce food.
Nine small-scale farmers who raised their concerns have shown that for the 2020 production year they have spent between N$37 960 and N$90 000 on electricity.
Collectively, their electricity bill culminated to N$560 937.91 for 2019/20.
According to some of the concerned farmers operating from the Musese green scheme in the Kavango East region, the skyrocketing electricity cost is one of the factors preventing them from farming productively.
Of primary concern to the farmers is the manner Nored determines the “demand charge” that is added to the actual cost of the power used by a farmer for a specific period of time.
In most cases, Nored sets the demand charge “demand charges” at more than 40 per cent of the actual electricity consumed.
As a result of the high cost of electricity Nored occasionally cuts the supply to the green schemes due to unpaid bills, leaving farmers in the dark and unable to irrigate their crops.
“Demand charges” is the rate at which electricity is consumed or the amount needed to power your business at any given point in time.
It is determined based on the highest level of electricity a consumer demands at one time during the billing period and at the time of day, it’s needed by the consumer.
Compounded with other imported agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and machines, the cost of electricity to produce food at the green schemes could be unbearable for small-scale farmers as it runs into millions every year.
For example, nine small-scale farmers at the Musese green scheme needed more than N$3 million to pay for electricity and other agricultural inputs during the 2019/20 planting season to produce 898 tonnes of white maize.
In 2018/19, they spent a combined amount of N$3,3 million, while during 2020/21 they forked out N$3,6 million for the same inputs.
Petrus Mulengi who compiled the figures on behalf of the concerned farmers said the cost of electricity makes it impossible to thrive as a small-scale farmer.
Among other things, Mulengi said small scale farmers can only afford to pay for the labour input for their production.
He says they feel neglected as they have been calling on Nored and concerned stakeholders to review and reduce the electricity cost but nothing has changed.
The call by the farmers comes at the time when the government has resolved to dismantle the troubled Agricultural Business Development Agency (AgriBusDev), which was instrumental in assisting small and medium-scale farmers with financial assistance to ease their burden.
Apart from the high cost of electricity, Mulengi said small-scale farmers are also burdened by the cost of imported seeds and fertilisers.
The delays in the procurement of seeds and fertilisers by the Ministry of Agriculture also negatively impact the production of small-scale farmers.
For the 2019/20 harvest season, nine (9) small-scale farmers planted 87.05 hectares of white maize.
This represents 87.7 per cent of the total irrigable area, comparing it to 40 per cent of the area planted during the same period in 2019.
Furthermore, the small-scale farmers also planted vegetables (cabbages and butternuts) on 2.05 hectares.
Only 10 hectares of land were not planted due to budgetary constraints.
From their planted 87.95 hectares, the nine farmers yielded between 9.3 and 11.7 metric tonnes per hectares beyond their targeted yield/ha of 9 metric tonnes (mt).
As a result, by the end of the harvesting season in 2020, the nine small-scale farmers have produced 898.58 metric tonnes of white maize.
Looking at the cost of production endured by the nine small-scale producers to yield the highlighted metric tonnes- the farmers have spent N$3,04 million.
On average the three farmers each spent around N$300 000 and N$40o,00 for them to realise their yield between 9.3 and 11.7mt/ha.
Two invoices of electricity for Musese Pump Station for February and March shows that the green scheme used electricity worth N$193 982.24.
During the period, each of the nine farmers spent between $37 960 and N$90 000 on electricity bills.
According to Malengi they sold all of their 898.58 metric tonnes of white maize to the Agro-Marketing and Trading Agency (Amta) silos at Rundu.
Thus, the nine farmers generated N$4,4 million, around half a million for each- the 2020 revenue was 69.6 per cent more than 2019 due to the increase in output.
The small producers have also indicated that they supplement their maize income by growing animal feed (bales) and chicken feed.
The country 11 green had around 165 Small Scale Farmers (SSF) that were operating there and around 29 Medium-Scale Farmers under irrigable and non-irrigable land.