Calls to Increase Agri-Spending

Namibia will have to increase its spending on agriculture to at least ten percent of the total annual national budget allocation in order for the sector to play its role in food security and to deliver on the promise of Vision 2030. Land access, proper management of shared resources and stimulated growth in every sector of agriculture hold the key to ensuring Namibia would at least be able to feed its own population.

This was the conclusion of a panel of experts yesterday during a discussion on agriculture and food security at the OAUAU Golden Jubilee Conference in Windhoek.

The discussion, led by UNDP representative and UN resident coordinator Musinga Bandora, made it clear that Africa needs a complete rethink on agriculture, the challenges facing the industry, cooperation between countries and scientific methods to increase production.

Dr Kaire Mbuende, former MP, former Namibian permanent representative to the UN, farmer and businessman, urged Namibians to help change the agricultural landscape where currently 10 percent of the agricultural economy caters for some 70 percent of the population.

“Our levels of production must be addressed urgently. Something is wrong and that’s why we suffer from low income and … poverty. The drought of 2013 was a wake-up call its impact was more severe than during other droughts where it rained less than last year. We must find new ways of doing things and even new ways of doing things that we have been doing all along. Agriculture is in our hands, and a growth rate of between four and five percent is just not good enough for growth. It must be upped to at least eight or ten percent if we are to face the challenges that lie ahead,” he emphasised.

Bandora agreed, saying agriculture feeds about two-thirds of the African population, creates jobs and wealth as well as security. “But huge challenges face the industry as Africa still suffers from high malnutrition and low incomes. Many parts of Africa, like Namibia, rely on rain for food production. In all African countries, high interest rates on loans, poor training techniques, lack of information and lack of value addition hamper agricultural growth,” he said.

Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, said government has not reached the ten percent expenditure level of the national budget yet, but assured that it is on track to achieve that goal with the various projects and programmes being implemented by the agriculture ministry.

He stressed the importance of land ownership and said irrigation is one of the most favourable techniques in providing food security. “Namibia is unfortunately very dependent on rainfall and at this stage our irrigation projects are limited to the north-eastern parts of the country. Access to water is vital and government announced plans earlier this year to be implemented after a preliminary study is completed on securing water supply countrywide,” he said.

Ambassador Leonard Iipumbu, CEO of Agribank, encouraged producers – small and big – to come up with viable agricultural schemes and approach the bank for loans and access to credit. “We especially encourage women to do this, as they play such a pivotal role in agriculture. We have the money that must be spent for a good cause. Come to us,” he invited producers in all agricultural sectors.

Source : New Era