The Research Associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Dietrich Remmert, believes that low agricultural investment has hampered the development of the agricultural sector for a considerable time, and reflect a consistently small annual budget allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform.
According to Remmert, the main national-level issue that relates to policymaking and budgetary allocation is the fact that the agricultural sector does not attract enough investment nor has it received adequate government funding.
According to Remmert, over the past years, the government has increasingly allocated lower amounts of funding to the ministry, totalling on average just slightly over 4% per annum from 2012/13 to 2018/19.
Furthermore, he noted that investment in agriculture is weak having remained fairly constant since Independence. Consequently, the overall economic performance of the sector has declined since Independence with regards to the overall contribution to the country’s GDP.
“Policymakers and government officials have for years maintained that agriculture possesses the potential to significantly contribute to national wealth, job creation, and food security. Namibia’s leaders have also placed significant emphasis on sustainable natural resource management and conservation. This compels government and stakeholders in the agricultural sector to consider and adopt agricultural methods that both enhance production as well as protect and conserve the natural environment,” elaborated Remmert.
He noted that it is time to reap benefits from the method known as conservancy agriculture (CA) in Namibia. MAWF defines CA as: “An approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment.”
NDP5 lists several ambitious agricultural sector targets to be achieved by various strategies. Among others, the plan states that by 2022, a minimum of 50% of farmers should practice CA. CA is also prioritised as one method to improve sustainable land management to conserve and sustainably make use of natural resources.
Remmert said as a sustainable agricultural method, CA has struggled to take hold in the country even after a decade and a half of promotion and support programmes.
“Available literature shows that local CA projects face implementation and funding issues in addition to a range of technical and social barriers. Moreover, Namibia’s experience with CA is not isolated as the Southern African region, in general, has struggled to adopt and advance this agricultural method,” he stated.
CA’s usefulness for an arid and food-insecure country like Namibia is not in dispute. However, it is also evident that CA requires significant resources, promotion, and funding to ensure more widespread adoption. Also, national policies and strategies need to take into account barriers to adoption and actively seek to address them.
Remmert said the agriculture ministry has acknowledged that the successful adoption of CA by farmers requires a range of additional factors such as a market for cover crops. CA was therefore characterised as a long-term investment.
He outlined that there is limited documentation available that critically evaluates past and current CA programmes in the country. Remmert advised that Namibia should carry out a comprehensive stocktaking exercise to determine the exact status of CA in the country.
“It is evident that the government would need to increase budget allocations to the agricultural sector and CA initiatives to realise ambitious national agricultural targets.
Alternatively, donor and commercial interests could advance CA but this would require more commitment from donor organisations and a more conducive investment climate for private businesses,” recommended Remmert.
He further said Namibian stakeholders should explore the promotion of CA to larger smallholding operations and commercial farms as these have access to more resources and could practice the method on a greater scale.