By:Josef Kefas Sheehama
The gross domestic product (GDP) from agriculture in Namibia increased to U$2794.70 million in the second quarter of 2022 from U$1049.30 million in the first quarter of 2022, says the Namibia Statistics Agency.
Namibia is a country where rural households depend heavily on agriculture and where farming systems are highly sensitive to volatile climatic conditions.
The country’s development trajectory is guided by Vision 2030, the Fifth National Development Plan ((NDP5), the Zero-Hunger Strategic Review and the Second Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP2), all which recognise the importance of food and nutrition security in contributing to Namibia’s drive to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 17.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased food insecurity in Africa.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that as many as 13 million more people worldwide will be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With Ukrainian supplies cut off, food prices are on the rise across Africa. The food Namibia imports includes various categories of vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, tea, spices, seed of wheat, maize, malt, sunflower seed and oil, margarine, prepared foods, bulgur wheat, sweet biscuits and all types of juices and water.
Little attention is given to communal farmers and their indigenous knowledge on food production.
The Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions are by far the best options as hubs for food security in Namibia. This whole dependence on South Africa and other countries for everything, especially food is going to cost us a lot. If our own people, government and whosoever is concerned does not invest on these things soon, we will be labelled a begging nation.
In 2021, the share of agriculture in Namibia’s gross domestic product was 9.4%t, industry contributed approximately 25.04% and the services sector contributed about 58.63%t.
More needs to be done to improve rural living standards, reduce regional income differentials and lower the rate of rural-urban migration, while concomitantly increasing agricultural production and enhancing Namibia’s food and nutrition security. Government should implement a rural development strategy with focuses on large modern farms and family farming.
The effective implementation of NDP5 and HPP2 will strengthen the country’s position in agriculture. To make this shift, regulatory reforms which define the principles of public investment, lay out a framework for attracting private investment in the agricultural sector, while enhancing access to finance.
Considering agriculture’s importance to the overall economy, there are challenges that need to be addressed urgently to unleash its full potential. One such challenge is agricultural marketing and trade. In Namibia, only the University of Namibia’s Neudamm and Ogongo campuses have a dedicated department for agricultural marketing. A lot more focus is needed by academia and research bodies.
Training at Neudamm and Ogongo campuses focuses on agriculture, management of natural resources and environmental science. The downward trend in enrollment in agriculture coursesposes a serious concern to the sector, which is responsible for supporting the country’s growing demand for food security. Agriculture is one sector that can really turn things around in this country but the government seems to be paying only lip service to it.
The government can create a new awareness about the potential of this sector and its diverse opportunities. There should be a re-orientation programme where youths will be taught to see agriculture as a business that can create agro-billionaires.
The agricultural economists must, therefore, train people in the most economical use of production factors. The government should play a big role in reforming the UNAM Neudamm and Ogongo campuses. Without the reforms of the two campuses we cannot talk about competitiveness in agricultural sector.
And government must invest heavily in agriculture so that we can harness the huge resources in the sector.
A major challenge confronting the agricultural community is how to develop policies and strategies that will help previously disadvantaged farmers to benefit from the more liberalised, deregulated market for agricultural products. Much of the research effort on the part of agricultural economists working for Neudamm and Ogongo campuses focused on identifying the needs of this new, emerging group of farmers and developing support programmes for credit, production inputs and marketing processes for these farmers. One of the traditional tasks of the agricultural economists is to provide farmers with economic and financial advice.
Furthermore, agricultural economist’s guide the farmers as to which would be the most advantageous combination of the different production factors in his operation, so as to be able to produce at the lowest possible costs.
This will and should always be one of the most important tasks of agricultural economists. They must also be aware of which product might hold the best advantages, and where and how it should be marketed. The expertise of the agricultural economists will become more and more important to assist emerging farmers to become successful, given a large number of new entrants into the commercial agricultural sector as a result of the land reform processes.
They will play a major role in feasibility studies of projects and programmes of developing farmers, and this area poses significant challenges to the agricultural economists.
The maintenance and strengthening of food security mean that farm production systems need to adapt to increase productivity and, ultimately, lower output volatility in the face of important weather events. Production systems need to become more robust, better able to perform well in the face of vital stressful conditions and farming accidents, and to sustain farm and revenue.
Greater production and resilience in agriculture require a transformation in natural resource management. Moving to those systems could also lead, by increasing carbon sinks, to significant mitigation benefits and reduction in emissions per unit of agricultural product.
To address the current economic crisis and make the economy viable again, we must do everything constitutionally possible to destroy corruption because even if the economy is buoyant and there is still corruption, we will go back into crisis again.
It is important we tackle corruption at all levels and take everyone along. Additionally, we also need to diversify the economy. We have to balance things up in terms of our foreign reserves and that will happen if we diversify the economy and go back to agriculture, and take a more serious look at the mineral resources sector. Farmers, agribusinesses and financiers cannot achieve success without keeping up with international agricultural trends. The truth is that many of today’s policies and regulatory frameworks are an obstacle for Radical Economic Transformation.
The dream of Namibia’s economic emancipation can’t be deferred any longer. The commercial and communal farmers have to join hands to assist each other in farming challenges. Therefore, we cannot afford to replicate the inequalities and injustices that continue condemning the 1896 Redline Radical Economic Transformation. The sooner we redefine communal set ups in terms of their benefits and strengths to livestock farmers as opposed to their weakness, the better our farmers will become.
In conclusion, a resilient agriculture that eliminates hunger, provides development opportunities, and maintains the supply of natural capital and a diversity of ecosystem services is a basic condition for the persistence and prosperity of human society.
Achieving this goal will require developing an agriculture that is persistent, adaptive and transformative.
Therefore, we have many successes in stabilising agriculture in the short term and in building efficiency; however, this very success has interfered with our ability to allow agricultural systems to adapt to the rising rate of environmental change and to be transformed when needs and opportunities arise.
There will be costs to allowing transformation and maintaining a resilient agriculture, but these will be compensated by the capacity to maintain human well-being in the long run. We need young talented people because of the challenges we face in the agriculture sector, with regard to climate change..
Resilient Agriculture Key To Attain GDP Growth Target
By:Josef Kefas Sheehama