Resilient agriculture required to attain GDP growth targets
By Josef Kefas Sheehama.
The GDP contribution from agriculture increased to US$2794.70 million in the second quarter of 2022 from US$1049.30 million in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Namibia Statistics Agency but Namibia still desperately needs to improve agricultural production systems and tackle the threats of climate change and uncertainty.
Namibia is a country where rural households depend heavily on agriculture and where farming systems are highly sensitive to volatile climatic conditions. Development in Namibia is guided by the Vision 2030 initiative, the Fifth National Development Plan, the zero-hunger strategic review and the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which all recognize the importance of food and nutrition security and support the Zero Hunger initiative in contributing to Namibia’s drive to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 17.
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Increases Food Insecurity in Africa.
The Food and Agricultural Organization 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 and fruit, tea, spices, seed of wheat, maize, roasted malt, sunflower seed and oil, margarine, prepared foods, bulgur wheat, sweet biscuits and all types of juices and water.
Little attention is vested on communal farmers and their indigenous knowledge of 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 a ‘begging nation.’
Therefore, given that agriculture is a leading sector in our country, the resilience of farming systems to adapt to climate change is crucial. The improvements in farm production systems also provide a major mitigation source by increasing carbon stocks in terrestrial systems and reducing emissions by increasing efficiency. At the same time, more needs to be done to increase 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.
The Government of Namibia should implement a rural development strategy which focuses on large modern farms and family farming. The effective implementation of NDP5 and HPP2 will strengthen Namibia’s position in agriculture. To make this shift, regulatory reforms are needed which define the principles of public investment, lay out a framework for attracting private investment to the agricultural sector, and enhance access to finance and operational responsiveness.
Furthermore, 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 UNAM Neudamm and Ogongo campuses have a dedicated department for agricultural marketing and a lot more focus is needed by academia and research. Training at Neudamm and Ogongo focuses on agriculture, management of natural resources and environmental science. The downward trend in enrollment in agriculture courses poses a serious concern to the agriculture sector, which is responsible for supporting the country’s growing need 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 the youth will be taught to see agriculture as business that can create agro-billionaires. The greater freedom of world trade will mean that it is important to stay competitive. Efficiency and productivity will be of utmost importance. The agricultural economist must, therefore, train people in the most economical use of production factors. Hence, the government must invest heavily in agriculture so that we can harness the huge resources in the sector.
Furthermore, without reforms of the faculties at Neudamm and Ogongo, we cannot talk about competitive agriculture. 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 liberalized, deregulated market for agricultural products. Much of the research effort on the part of agricultural economists working for Neudamm and Ogongo focused on identifying the needs of this new, emerging group of farmers and developing support programmes for credit, production inputs and marketing processes. One of the traditional tasks of the agricultural economist is to provide farmers with economic and financial advice.
Furthermore, agricultural economists should guide farmers as to which would be the most advantageous combination of the different production factors in his or her operation, to be able to produce at the lowest possible input 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 economist 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 land reform. They will play a major role in feasibility studies of projects and programmes for developing farmers, and this area poses significant challenges to the agricultural economists.
Moreover, the maintenance and strengthening of food security means 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 farms and revenue.
Greater production and resilience in agriculture requires 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 output. Furthermore, 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 revert to 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 in terms of our foreign reserves, which will only happen if we diversify the economy and go back to agriculture, and also 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 setups in terms of their benefits and strengths to livestock farmers as opposed to their weakness, the better our farmers will become.
We have many successes in stabilizing 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 regards to climate change, to be able to feed our people efficiently and safely.
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.