Rural Economy Needs Property Rights

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ALLOW me a space in your newspaper to air my views on the fencing of communal areas. The government is talking of empowerment program-mes only to the economic sector and probably the business sector. Modernization of farming in the communal areas must be the first programme to be dealt with by our government in order to increase productivity and improve the livelihood of neglected black subsistence farmers in the whole of Namibia. Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in the Namibian economy, thus subsistence-based farming on the contrary is practised on 36,2 million ha, mainly in northern Namibia and +/-2,8 million ha underutilized area in the Omaheke Region. Its contribution to the GDP is quite small but supports the majority production of the rural population. The production methods there are still not modernized and the productivity is low. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to constructively address black economic empowerment in agriculture because of the past injustices and structural imbalances which excluded the majority of black people from owning land and which limited their ability to accumulate wealth. Yes, we know of the government’s attempts at introducing the National Resettlement Program (NRP) and the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) as administered by Agribank. Under the NRP, farms to the value of +/-N$128 million were purchased, while under the AALS about 600 farms were purchased with government subsidizing N$235 million. The question one would like to pose is whether this initiative has yielded the benefits intended? Are the costs of these schemes justified as measured by the results obtained? Are we succeeding in modernizing communal agriculture and increasing productivity? Communal land is still under the ownership of chiefs and traditional authorities. This means that no title deeds or property rights exist in these areas that constrain agricultural production and economic growth. I’m of the opinion that as long as the communal land is locked up in the kinship system of asset ownership, properties built on such land cannot be used as collateral and are of no value. These assets’ potentially useful economic values have not been recognized and the question is how could these assets be transformed into productive assets. One of the challenges of BEE in the agriculture sector is to find a mechanism that could be helpful to move from primitive accumulation of assets to a proper system that could legally fix the economic potential of such assets so that they can be used to produce, secure, or guarantee greater value in the market. What I want to emphasize is that if the rural economy is going to change in a meaningful way a system of property rights should be implemented. Fixed properties in the communal areas should be registered and legally recognized through the title deeds. The ripple effects in formalizing land and property ownership in the communal areas would be huge. It will encourage people who buy and own these properties to make them more productive and thereby increase the income of the rural population. This is the only way assets in the rural communities could be translated into productive assets. Rural people need the luxury of owning and disposing of their property. To me this will be real empowerment of the marginalized rural farmers if they can be given such an opportunity. Fencing in communal area should be catergorised as follows: Fencing in commonage areas, for instance in Otum-borombonga, Omhedi, Oka-tuuo, Oukango, etc., should be carefully not be allowed since it is in the homesteads and communal usage of all farmers unless they as farmers decide otherwise. Fencing in far remote underutilized areas, like for instance in the areas that are outside designated areas like Mangetti, Okamatapati, Rietfontein Block, some areas of Otjituuo, Okonajatu, Otjinene, Epukiro and Eiseb Block. In these areas, there is vast underutilized virgin land that can be divided in economic agricultural units for resettlement purposes under the leasehold scheme for agricultural purposes. We know that forms are available for such exercise (Form No. 6) and the one for retention of fences under correction (Form No. 4). To fence off communal areas is not because the farmers want to deny other farmers their grazing rights but because of the following reasons: 1. The expensiveness of commercial farmland. 2. The difference of the purchase prices to be paid when buying farms. 3. The desire for proper organized ways of farming methods. 4. Own bulls that must be used to produce calves for your own range and not for the whole commonage farmers. 5. Taxation for the units can also be introduced to the fenced off leasehold agricultural scheme in the communal areas. 6. Cattle have been adopted in our own areas – why is the government not developing us where we are? Fencing should be seen as a format of the rural poor to reduce poverty and to improve their unreliability and uncreditwothiness. The poor communal farmers want to choose the directions in which they want to move and address the sources of their deprivation, such as lack of economics and entrepreneurialship. From DTA Head Office

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