Private Sector Cannot Be Relied Upon to Transform Rural Areas

WINDHOEK – It is a dream and indeed a myth for anybody to believe that the current private sector in our country under the current law, land ownership or tenure system will bring infrastructural development to Namibia’s communal or rural areas.

With this sound reasoning, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) John Mutorwa, last week officially opened the annual congress of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) in Windhoek. “Although originally subsistence-based, Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) agriculture is quickly transforming towards surplus production and profit making while sustaining the great majority of Namibian farmers, especially poor farmers. Communal areas should be retained, developed and expanded where necessary, ” he states.

The Minister reminded the audience that more than 36 million hectares of the total agriculturally usable land in Namibia is owned and utilised by only 4 664 individual farmers while close to one million people have access to only 33.5 million hectares of the total land suitable for agricultural production. Mutorwa says the NCAs extend over nearly 185 000 square kilometres (22 percent of Namibia’s land surface) and house about 1.2 million people (55 percent). “The vast majority of people are still dependent on traditional forms of agriculture (communal farming) for their livelihood but it is important that these areas be retained, developed and expanded where necessary,” he notes.

Mutorwa also responded to allegations to what he called the “self-styled anonymous Agronomist Activist Group 11”, who recently accused the MAWF of creating an unproductive land that caused communities to mass migrate to towns and more poverty. Mutorwa’s response was to point out what the government and the MAWF are doing which include: making provision and installation of water treatment plants as an integral component of all irrigation water supply schemes promote and encourage conservation agriculture and ecologically compatible cropping systems promote and encourage highly adaptive breeds of livestock in both communal and commercial areas promote and encourage highly adaptive and productive crop cultivars in dry-land or rain-fed crop farming systems promote and encourage agricultural production to best maintain and improve household income promote sustainable management of rangelands and pastures through preparation and implementation of integrated rangeland management plans to avoid land degradation and deforestation.

Mutorwa says the government’s overall development agenda, particularly its rural development policy strategy, inclusive of its agricultural programmes, must be understood, accepted and appreciated in the context and content of the decisions reached at the national land reform and land question consensus document of July 1991, stating that communal areas should be retained, developed and expanded where necessary.

Mutorwa concludes that the business of producing food, accessing food andor acquiring food is an individual human being’s individually assigned obligation and responsibility. “The time has come to get rid of many unnecessary adjectives to describe farmers and farming like small scale, subsistence, smallholder and communal, as contrasted to commercial farmers. Such adjectives and subjective descriptions are meaningless, not well meant semantic juggling and are fast becoming unhelpful clicheacutes,” he states.

Source : New Era