We have to hold the hands of our farmers: – Outjo Community Garden Project
By Josef Kefas Sheehama.
Innovation, creativity and agility need to be cherished and celebrated. The Mayor of Outjo, His Worship Bappelo initiated a community garden project to improve food security for informal settlement residents. Well done Your Worship!
The National Development Plans (NDPs), the Harambee Prosperity Plans (HPPs) and Vision 2030 are our future. We must make it work as Namibia`s development lodestar and roadmap. The critical interventions of Vision 2030 cover areas such as stimulating the economy, raising investment and employment levels, especially youth employment, strengthening capacity of the state and strengthening partnerships. It goes to the heart of Namibia’s major challenges of poverty and inequality which, together with unemployment, are identified in the National Development Plans as the triple challenge that is to be overcome by 2030.
The importance of a vibrant and robust agriculture is a primary development spigot. It provides employment opportunities for the teeming population, eradicates poverty and contributes to the growth of the economy. Agriculture plays a critical role in transforming the economy to reach the policy goals along with achieving other essential development goals like ensuring food security and improving nutrition. Therefore, in order to end hunger and malnutrition while accelerating economic growth, agricultural transformation must become a reality.
This is a humble beginning. All you need to do is just begin. Start somewhere, take a step in the right direction and try. As Namibians, it is our duty to play our role in the betterment of our society. Everybody differs from each other and has different abilities. Each person lives in his or her unique circumstances and everybody plays a different role. But essentially, we are all focused on the same goals as defined in the development plans.
Let us support His Worship Bappelo and his team so that other regions can emulate his perfect example. Creating good jobs for the poor will have a much larger effect on inequality and poverty. The social impact of reforms currently envisaged by authorities to boost growth would be significantly amplified with reforms to equip the poor to reap growth opportunities through the acquisition of skills. In doing so, the social compact would be further strengthened, with a likely positive impact on investment.
Agriculture plays an important role in the process of economic development and can contribute significantly to household food security. The developmental role of agriculture has long been recognized. Namibia imported over N$100 million worth of maize from South Africa and Zambia beginning 2022. This is not making good reading. We cannot point fingers or blame someone. We are the culprits. We cannot blame the government. We must blame ourselves. We failed as a nation and we need to wake up. As a leading sector of most economies, agriculture helps facilitate industrial growth and structural economic transformation.
Agriculture plays a multi-dimensional role in the development process, which includes eliciting economic growth, generating employment opportunities, contributing to value chains, reducing poverty, lowering income disparities, ensuring food security, delivering environmental services and providing foreign exchange earnings, among others. Due to the neglect of this sector, development progress has been hindered. Most young people would shun a career in agriculture.
The crisis in Ukraine is having an unprecedented impact on food security worldwide not only because the Ukraine and Russian produce a considerable percentage of global grain, but also due to disruptions in transport lines, markets and food production internationally.
Namibia imports a huge range of foods but little attention is given to communal farmers and their indigenous knowledge on food production. The Zambezi and the two Kavango 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, do not invest in these things soon, we as a nation will be labelled ‘the begging nation.’
It is worth noting that His Worship Bappelo prioritizes food security in Outjo district for the local community before selling surplus to other regions. He asserted that local communities should not be deprived of the benefits from the food they grow and the employment it creates. Therefore, we must ensure that a country that is not able to feed itself does not sell off land to produce food for exports when it is asking for food aid. A community gardening programme can reduce food insecurity, improve dietary intake and strengthen family relationships. Investment in agriculture is key for economic growth and job creation. Decision-makers must position agriculture more deliberately as a sector that could contribute to economic growth and job creation.
To this end, we salute His Worship Bappelo. I hope their efforts would stimulate the establishment of other notable industries like manufacturing and mineral extraction. But the immediate focus should still be on the agricultural sector as the main vehicle to solve the lingering unemployment crisis and absence of food security.
Therefore, economic inclusion and poverty reduction require support to smallholder and family farmers who represent most of the poor in Namibia. At the same time, supporting those farmers and enhancing their productivity and their linkage to markets can lead to increased food production and improved food and nutrition security.