If agriculture could enjoy the attention it deserves, the country could not have experienced the Kayova and other incidences where people died due to hunger. An anonymous Argentinian quote summed up the essence and criticality of agriculture by stating that “At least once in a lifetime, one needs a doctor, a lawyer, an architect – but every day, three times a day, one needs food!”.
While Namibia recognises agriculture, through its national development plans, as a priority sector with the potential to boost socio-economic development, the sector receives little attention.
According to the International Labour Organisation (2011), agriculture is considered the mainstay of many rural economies, ensuring food security, employment, livelihoods, export earnings and economic development.
Agricultural and food policies have a crucial role in reducing rural as well as aggregating poverty in Namibia, given that the bulk of the poor are in rural areas, and are employed or involved in agriculture.
Receives less attention
Over the years, the government of Namibia has tried to promote agriculture through its national development plans. However, it has not been fruitful, as output has not increased significantly to allow for sustainable food security to prevent some people from dying of hunger. Almost a day does not pass that one hears or reads about green hydrogen, but less attention or energy is devoted to agriculture, despite its significance.
This new-found saviour which is perceived to bring prosperity to Namibians is on the lips of everyone, while one hardly hears about agriculture, and only hears about it from the minister of agriculture, farmers unions or farmers complaining about a lack of grazing, poor roads or strict requirements to obtain a loan. Food security is critical to any human being since no one can go without it for a day, let alone more than a day.
Agreeing with Josef Kefas Sheehama, who stated in his article titled Strengthening Agricultural Planning and which appeared in the New Era newspaper on 27/10/2023, that ‘while all sectors are critical for Namibia’s economic growth and employment-creation, with Namibia having a skills’ shortage, one could have loved to see more energy devoted to agriculture’.
Most Namibians live in rural areas, where agriculture is their main source of survival. Many of these people are unskilled and less educated, and tilling the soil is the only way to bail them out from hunger or poverty, compared to sectors which require skilled labourers.
Although the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), through initiatives such as the Green Scheme and the National Horticulture Development Initiative (NHDI), is trying to increase local agricultural production, less attention, enthusiasm or resources are availed compared to the newborn green hydrogen, which is perceived as the messiah for reducing unemployment and poverty.
Giving more attention to the agricultural sector will address income inequality as well as contribute to the reduction of the unemployment quandary.
In addition to reducing unemployment and increasing food security, agriculture, if it receives the well-deserved attention, could play a significant role with regards the following:
Reduce the dependency syndrome
Giving attention to agriculture by supporting farmers and ordinary rural citizens will reduce the dependency syndrome of waiting for the 12,5 kg maize meal bag, which is distributed through the drought relief scheme.
Namibia is experiencing tremendous growth in its capital city as well as its major towns, where people flock in search of greener pastures.
Thus, giving attention to the agricultural sector will lessen the number of those moving to urban areas as they will be able to produce their own food, and will be employed in the agriculture sector.
While most Namibians welcome the arrival of green hydrogen to contribute to the reduction of the unemployment crisis and move Namibians towards prosperity, as it is being heralded, one could have expected the same energy and attention for agriculture.
The mobilisation of resources or support for agriculture will result in surplus production of food, which will be given to deserving, destitute families.
The majority of the rural populace having a meal is more heaven than visiting Dubai.
It is, therefore, imperative that one expects the same energy and enthusiasm to mobilise resources for agriculture, be it for farmers or ordinary rural citizens struggling to produce their own food due to a lack of land and ploughing equipment.
They could be assisted through the distribution of free seeds and ploughing, while funds can be mobilised for farmers to improve their farms.
Giving it more attention by addressing multiple factors which hamper its development such as insufficient infrastructure, skills, innovation, food processing and marketing, lack of fertilisers, access to land, and poor roads will help lift most of the rural poor out of poverty. Hence, if agriculture could receive the attention, energy and optimism green hydrogen is receiving, many people will not go to bed without a meal.
* Faustinus Shikukutu holds a PhD in education. He is currently lecturing on Educational Leadership and Management as well as Educational Foundation at the University of Namibia, Rundu Campus. All views expressed are his own.