TO all my countrymen and women. I wish there was an organization with a helpdesk with much support and lots of money available for resettlement farmers or a very active development project aimed at resettlement farmers all over the country.
After criss-crossing the Karas and Hardap regions for two weeks last month, my colleague Irene !Hoaës and I travelled over 6 000 kilometers through 100 resettlement land allotments.
New Era wanted to know more and to see more on how our people are progressing years after being resettled by the government. To my disappointment and utter dismay many of the farmers I met - even if they wanted to do better – clearly had all the odds stacked against them. Very few of them have anything to show for progress.
We wanted to see growth and record export volumes, but no - there was nothing. Resettlement to my understanding is aimed at improving the lives of the displaced, dispossessed and previously disadvantaged Namibians.
Farms obtained so far by our government for resettlement purposes, are usually split or parceled into small units and dozens of families are being resettled on what had previously been one farm.
It’s all good and well, but more needs to be done if we want to see these people come into the mainstream of farming for the future.
Most of these farms are under-utilized, while others are inhospitable and unforgiving wastelands.
To my understanding, those few resettlement farmers who receive loans under Agribank’s Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS), are given up to 25 years to repay their loans. It is also expected from them to become self-sufficient by the fourth year of operation as per the National Resettlement Policy of 2001: 7).
Then, there is the resettlement farm that is not considered a long-term project, with the result that economic success is expected too soon which I think, is ludicrous and farfetched. In my humble view, the main reason for the economic failure of resettlement farms to date is the lack of access to capital, as well as long-term investments.
For most development projects, sustainability can only be achieved if the project is implemented over the long-term, say a minimum of 10 to15 years. It might be advisable to provide them access to the services of professional consultants on a tender basis, as well as five-year renewable contracts, in order to monitor those farming enterprises independently.
The way I see it is that the challenge of land reform and resettlement must be understood in the context of the challenges facing Namibia’s agriculture sector as a whole.
To meet all these challenges, our leaders need to revise or re-devise two policies. Firstly, a clear and integrated agri-cultural development policy that provides for the restructuring of the existing commercial agri-cultural sector, as well as the improvement of communal agriculture, followed by a bold and creative policy that deals more effectively with land reform and resettlement.
This will enable our resettlement beneficiaries to utilize fully their rights as leaseholders and it could well prove to be the key to integrating resettlement beneficiaries into the mainstream commercial farming sector in our country. Our Motherland is made up of savannah grasslands that are suitable for cattle grazing, while the country’s arid climate is excellent for livestock rearing.
Furthermore, the agri-cultural sector is the number one source of employment in the country and provides jobs to thousands of people.
Livestock production could therefore become an effective and sustainable addition to mineral exportation. Furthermore, I would suggest that men and women from the National Youth Service be trained and deployed to each of these farms to carry out general maintenance work, while agricultural extension officers should be deployed to provide overall guidance and advise on new farming methods.
If executive powers were invested in me for one day, I would stop all exports of live animals across our borders. I would also order my finance office to buy all livestock for the same price the sellers get across the border and redistri-bute them to resettlement farmers without anything in return, except that they should excel at farming.
This action will help to stock up the under-utilized farmland, which we saw in abundance during our excursion. If nothing is done we should soon find all our livestock being transported by truckloads across the borders under our very noses in the name of exports. I rest my case. EEWA