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Call for Agri to modernise and transition communal, subsistence farming to allow women access

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Daisry Mathias, presidential advisor on youth issues, stated that there is a need to provide women with technical assistance, capital, and other production factors such as access to land.

This was said by Mathias against the backdrop of a raging debate about women in agriculture.

While Namibian women are gradually establishing themselves in the traditionally male-dominated agricultural sector, there is still debate about whether enough is being done to enable more women to participate.

“The challenge that many women have is the accessibility of capital, which translates to acquiring land due to the collateralised nature of agricultural finance,” she stated during a recent Covid-19 panel discussion on women in agriculture.

Mathias, however, said a lot of work is being done in finance, especially through AgriBank that has introduced a scheme targeting young people and women, which is non-collateralised and introduces preferential interest rates.

She also stressed the importance of modernising and transitioning communal and subsistence farming to commercial farming, while addressing capacity-building in general for women in the sector.

Apart from AgriBank’s services, women can also seek assistance from the agricultural ministry which has introduced the Namibia Agricultural Mechanisation and Seed Improvement Project, which is a stand-alone investment project aimed at improving cereal crops/grains and livestock value chains.

The line ministry also offers the Harambee Comprehensively Coordinated and Integrated Agricultural Development Programme.

“In the programmes, we have women as preferential participants (with over 50% of participation), whereas male participation is between 45% and 47%. Those programmes are rolled out, and we do have them,” stated agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein at the same event.

He added: “Inasmuch as that is helpful to our government policy of equalisation and moving away from discriminatory practises, we sit with a challenge that both traditional and outdated westernised approaches, be it in the financial or agriculture sector, perpetuate preference for male participation”.

Based on this, Schlettwein said, the government policies should not only stop at incentivising women to participate in the programmes, but should be geared towards behavioural change since most of the animals in homesteads, whether in the northern parts of the country or the south, are owned by men.

“The real measure of equity, in my opinion, will be wealth. If you haven’t distributed the wealth in the agricultural sector equally, you have not succeeded in reform,” the minister commented.

Founder of Women in Agriculture Namibia, Helvi Shindume, said although males dominate the workforce, women seem to be dominating in communal and subsistence farming activities.

“This trend is particularly notable in the Omusati, Omaheke, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto regions. We do see that women’s performance in the agricultural sector is much more on a lower scale or subsistence level, which is not sufficient for our country,” she shared.

Shindume said there is room for improvement so that Namibian women can contribute on a large scale, and be on a commercial level so that they can earn an income and contribute to the gross domestic product.