Kazenambo Speaks for Small Farmers

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue Windhoek A rare event took place in parliament this week when Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Kazenambo Kazenambo supported a motion tabled by an opposition leader. The motion, originally tabled by DTA leader Katuutire Kaura called on the government to reconsider its proposed restrictions on the live export of weaner cattle – mainly to the South African market. The aims of the restrictions proposed by the government are apparently to increase local value adding on agricultural products, thereby increasing employment opportunities in Namibia. This week’s debate was unusual in that Kaura’s motion was supported by not only the deputy minister, but also by Swapo MP Hans Boois. In an interview yesterday Kazenambo explained why he appeared to be opposing the restrictions on the live export of weaners. The deputy minister said that in principle he was not opposed to Kaura’s motion, because the restrictions on exporting weaners would affect many small farmers, particularly those in communal areas. He warned that the whole issue needed to be handled very carefully because it could have a very negative impact on communal farmers. Kazenambo said he had recommended to parliament that the matter should be referred back to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Economic Affairs for further study. He specifically asked that the committee carry out proper research on how many new jobs would be created by the measure, and on how many livelihoods would be negatively affected. Kazenambo pointed out that there was a shortage of land in Namibia – a problem that was particularly acute in communal areas – and that the capacity of the land in these areas would not allow keeping weaners until they became oxen. Namibia was generally a dry country with periodic droughts, and there was already a problem of serious overgrazing in communal areas. It therefore lacked the capacity to support animals for two extra years before they could be sold as oxen. To start producing oxen, he said, farmers had to wean animals, which would not be possible in communal areas because there were no fences where calves could be separated from their mothers. Furthermore, he said, if cows were forced to continue suckling their calves beyond weaning age they would become weak and less able to withstand the ravages of drought. Kazenambo emphasized that cows weakened by suckling calves for extended periods would be unable to produce a calf every year, thereby drastically reducing the income of communal farmers. He further questioned the argument that Meatco faced shortages of slaughter animals because of the export of weaners to South Africa, saying that Meatco’s problems were more likely caused by the seasonal nature of livestock production. Furthermore there were not enough feedlots, nor the necessary feed, in Namibia to allow all the cattle in the country to be raised to oxen for Meatco to slaughter. “Adding value should not be done at the expense of the very people we are trying to help,” he pleaded. Responding to the argument that communal farmers need to diversify their sources of income, he pointed out that diversification was only possible once these farmers had reached a certain level. For that to happen they needed to be empowered. Kazenambo said the 15 percent levy the government wants to impose on exported weaners would not hurt speculators or buying agents because they would simply pass the cost on to communal farmers. Furthermore, he pointed out that the agricultural sector was by far the largest employer in the country, and that a few hundred jobs at abattoirs and tanneries could never replace the thousands of jobs that would be lost on farms. “The impact will be catastrophic, and even more unemployment will be created,” he argued. In a related development, the Livestock Producers Forum, comprising producers, abattoir operators will have a workshop on value adding on July 11 before making their recommendations to government.