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Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein said the land must be distributed fairly, and past injustices must be corrected.

Schlettwein told delegates attending a strategic workshop at Swakopmund on Monday that five years after the historic Second National Land Conference and its consequent Resolutions, tens of thousands and Namibians continue to yearn for access to productive land hectares. 

However, he said, the land must be utilised productively to unlock economic opportunities and boost food and nutrition security.

Schlettwein said the total factor productivity in the agricultural sector has not improved by leaps and bounds over the years but declined as mirrored in the stagnant share of agriculture in total economic output.

According to Schlettwein, the national import bill for some staple food and related products ranks as high as 60 per cent of total consumption nationally, underscoring the need for scaling-up national productive capacity to achieve food self-sufficiency and sovereignty.

At the same time, he added, overall productivity for large swathes of the resettled land portions is concerning, while implementation of major transformational projects, programmes and structural policy reforms has not been robust for the intended benefits.

The minister noted that water supply gaps continue to prevail regarding generation and distribution, with bulk water distribution infrastructure in need of urgent refurbishment, while deep pockets of potable water scarcity continue to pose daily challenges to some rural communities over the past 30 years.

“The provision of support services in our core areas of service provision such as extension services, animal and plant health, research and market promotion is not the most optimal for an elevated role of agriculture in the economy,” he further noted.

Equally, Schlettweon said, operational efficiency in providing support services needs to be re-engineered to improve turnaround times.

The strategic workshop aims to take stock of the achievements, challenges and opportunities and craft a new Strategic Plan for the agriculture ministry for the next five years.

The minister said the strategy session occurs at a critical juncture of Namibia’s development agenda and the agricultural, water and land reforms sectors.

While the national economy is projected to rebound to positive growth territory, with agriculture and water sectors among the growth anchors, the quality and inclusivity of growth remain weak.

At the same time, he said, the structural challenges of high unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, poverty and inequalities, continue to linger.

He added that the workshop must take stock of the achievements, challenges and risk factors and emerging opportunities, including innovative and digital solutions, urban agriculture, productive diversification and private investment drive for a targeted and outcome-based strategy over the next five years.

Furthermore, the workshop should consider the guiding policy imperatives set out in Vision 2030, NDP 6, the Harambee Prosperity Plan II, and the commitments engendered in the Swapo Party Manifesto to propose strategic objectives and programmes to realise the goals for the sector.

Water Sector

The minister said the percentage of rural households with access to potable water within a radius of 2.5km increased from the baseline of 91 per cent in 2017/18 to 96 per cent by 2021/22.

The percentage of households that now have access to improved sanitation facilities also rose from 42 per cent in 2016/17 to 54 per cent over the past five years.

He said the construction of the Nectartal dam and eight other earth dams enabled opportunities for intensive agriculture and enhanced water supply.

“The planned desalination plant in Erongo Region will be added to the pack, which will give the national security of bulk water supply until 2037,” he said.

Land Reform

Schlettwein said at least 267,868 hectares of commercial agricultural land was acquired to resettle landless Namibians, exceeding the target of 224,123 hectares by 20 per cent.

About 113 previously disadvantaged landless Namibians were resettled in the eight regions of Omaheke, Otjozondjupa, Oshikoto, Kunene, Erongo, Hardap, /Kharas and Khomas. 

Given the limited financial resources, at least 60 per cent of the resettled farmers were provided with some form of infrastructure and support services.

Over 33,000 Communal Land Rights were registered in Communal areas, while 10 000 hectares of communal land have been developed, adding up to 270 000 hectares of virgin communal land developed.

He said that flexible land tenure in some local authorities has afforded over 500 citizens in informal settlements to register holding titles for their properties.

Agriculture Sector

According to the minister, the average production of staple food has improved over the past five years to 203,508 tonnes from 161,294 tonnes to 203,508 tonnes.

This, he said, reflects increases in maise and pearl millet production, despite the impact of climate variability and pests outbreaks.

By quarter three of 2021, the GDP contribution of the agricultural sector grew by 5.9 per cent, while the country managed to control the outbreak of animal diseases and pests to enhance animal and plant health.

“Namibia is the only country on the African continent with market access for beef to the EU, China, the USA, and SADC. On account of maintaining quality standards, Namibia has retained its access to the best paying lucrative markets for livestock and crop products regionally and globally,” he said.


Staff Writer

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