Agriculture in dire need of new farming practices

Windhoek-More than ever, Namibians now need to innovate and embrace new ways to sustainably intensify livestock and crop farming if the country wants to avoid the risk of an increased population going hungry.

The Bank of Namibia (BoN) annual symposium was the latest reminder of the need for innovation in the agricultural sector when agricultural experts lamented the looming food crisis if Namibians do not reinvent farming practices. The Governor of BoN, Iipumbu Shiimi, made it clear that Namibia has a challenge on its hands, as there is a high reliance on imports of agricultural products.

Namibia imports about 60 percent of its food crop categories. In 2015 and 2016, the agricultural sector recorded production deficits for the following crops: horticulture at 49 860 tonnes; wheat at 95 190 tonnes; white maize at 120 659 tonnes and mahangu at 6 096 tonnes. The contribution of agriculture to GDP declined from 4 percent in 2008 to 3.4 percent in 2016 and averaged only 4.2 percent over the same period. He suggested that Namibia transform the agricultural sector and agro-processing industries to reduce food imports and increase exports such as meat.

Former president of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), Paul Smit, said over 60 percent of the population practices some form of agriculture for a living while agriculture in Namibia occupies 64 million hectares or 78 percent of the land area, including 206 000 households and 1.17 million people. In the position paper titled 'Feeding Namibia: An Overview of Agricultural Productivity and Industrialisation', he delivered at the symposium, Smit stated that because of little rainfall, only 40 000 hectares are suitable for intensive agriculture, and the country suffers from drought six out of every 10 years.

Another factor that has contributed to food insecurity has been the loss of indigenous foods and the related indigenous knowledge for preparing those foods, he said.

A strong and an efficient agricultural sector would enable the country to feed its growing population, generate employment and foreign exchange, and provide raw materials for industries and a market for industrial products, Smit said. This will also see to it that the Harambee Prosperity Plan's objective on improving agricultural output is realised.

Smit recommended that focus be put on key crops locally.

The extent to which local production is pursued and incentivised should be decided upon with due regard to the likelihood of import supply chain disruptions caused by conflict or adverse climate elsewhere, and to the cost implications for Namibian consumers, he noted.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia