Green schemes as a farmer empowerment programme
By Kudakwashe Mushayavanhu.
One of the most praiseworthy and bold initiatives by the government was establishing the green scheme in 2008 with 27,000ha allocated around the country.
The scheme was designed to maximize irrigation opportunities and promote agro production towards making Namibia self-sufficient in food production.
The government’s decision to take back the struggling green scheme from Agribusdev to the Agriculture Ministry is commendable, however, the ministry cannot use the same scheme conditions and principles and accept different results.
At first, the farms were allocated to private investors who were afforded very generous grants by the government to fund the farming programme. All the private investors ate up the profits and left the farms in ruin.
The government formed Agribusdev with agro-expert civil servants earning salaries and the programme was beset with poor harvests and allegations of rampant fraud and corruption.
This time around, I suggest the green scheme be turned into a professional farmer development and/or empowerment programme.
The scheme should be changed to only consider graduate farmers from the agricultural colleges and not short-term profit-focused investors. The graduate farmers can initially be allocated smaller plots over 3 years as a way to gauge their commitment and performance. Their progress will be guided and monitored by a cross-functional team of Agri-business consultants. Use of cost-effective commercial grade farm equipment can still be made through leasing out the equipment to the farms.
Depending on the farmer’s success on the smaller farms, they can then be promoted to progressively bigger plots over ten years. Farm sizes can be determined by estimating the potential net income the farmer is expected to earn per annum e.g. level 1 from N$500 000, then to level 2: N$1 000 000 and level 3: N$2 000 000.
An exit strategy from the government-funded Green scheme would thus be possible through the farmer accessing Agribank or private sector funded loans to start their private commercial farm based on the gained experience and savings.
The Farmer empowerment scheme has several advantages over the current one;
i. It would be targeting people who are passionate about farming and have a longer-term view as opposed to the previous “investors” who are only into short-term profits;
ii. Namibia would be breeding its army of professional commercial farmers who are willing and able to feed the nation;
iii. the smaller farms can accommodate more people than the previous allocation of large farms to a few individual investors.
iv. There is an opportunity for the graduates to also team up to form companies to run even larger farms;
v. The scheme will also be a form of empowerment for the previously disadvantaged citizens;
vi. The new scheme will be broader based as it targets turning normal citizens into a self-sufficient middle class instead of enriching a few privileged “investors”.
vii. The program will emphasize entrepreneurship and job creation versus job hunting for agro graduates.
viii. The focus on rewarding performance would reduce the risk of GRN losing its investment as in the past two iterations of the green scheme.
ix. Agribank and private sector loan facilities can also be used to supplement GRN funding thereby enhancing the capacity of the scheme.
It is time that as Africans we start to believe and invest in our professionals to determine our fate because as the saying goes “freedom can only be achieved by those who can feed themselves”.
As such only when we can determine and provide ourselves with basic needs i.e. food, shelter, health, and education can we claim to be free. The Green Scheme is one of those programs that can help pull this nation out of poverty and into independence.