By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Poverty eradication through greater agricultural production in Africa – including Namibia – could be far from being achieved due to many factors, among them the fact that a few people own land. Addressing delegates at the 10th Africa Forum Conference in Windhoek on ‘Programme-Based Approaches in the Productive Sectors’, Prime Minister Nahas Angula expressed concern at declining funding in agriculture. “There is even a sharp decline in public sector funding to agriculture. The same observation has also been seen to be relatively factual when it comes to donor funding,” he said. In 1995, the percentage in terms of assistance that went to agriculture and production in Africa declined from 13% to only 6% in 2004. This represents a more than 50% drop in less than a decade. The World Bank’s foreign assistance alone shows that the contribution went from a high US$ 3.5 billion to US$800 million in 2002. Although the agriculture sector has not been receiving the attention it deserves, the Prime Minister stated that the sector has the potential to contribute more than anything else to the reduction of poverty in rural areas. About 75% of the poor live in rural areas and they depend on income derived from agricultural activities. Given this fact, the premier stressed that governments and other critical role players in the field should take a closer look at most of the challenges facing the sector. Angula says there is a need for land and agrarian reform in Namibia to be carefully managed so that it does not only benefit individual farmers but the country’s economy as a whole. In aiming to reduce poverty, strategies have focused more on health and education and only recently have most countries entered the second phase of poverty reduction involving the agriculture sector. In 2000, leaders pledged during the Millennium Summit held in New York to reduce poverty by half at least by 2015. According to Angula, government has a very important role to play in ensuring that agricultural growth is pro-poor. This means there should be equal access to resources such as land, services, credit and opportunities to make profitable use of these resources, and equal access to information, extension and education. Today, only 5% of the Namibian population occupies 90% of all arable land. Such challenges need to be addressed, Angula says. Land reform especially in Southern Africa is still a bone of contention especially that colonial settlers had fenced off large tracks of land exclusively for their benefit. If the trend continues, Angula warned, the consequences may be severe to the extent of threatening stability, peace and the hard won “freedom”. “I wish this conference to at least give a thought to how best we can resolve the issue in a manner that is to the satisfaction of everybody,” said the premier. He added that once the land question on the continent is meaningfully resolved, the result would be that agricultural production would be increased because more people would participate in agricultural production. The five-day African Forum conference is being held under the theme, “Programme Based Approaches in Agriculture and Rural Development”. Issues to be explored include performance and impact monitoring, the importance of the private sector in rural development and institutions and their capacities. Since the first conference in Lusaka in 1997, other hosts of this forum besides Zambia were Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Burkina Faso. African forums aim to provide a platform for the exchange of experiences, provide an African perspective as a contribution to international debate on programme-based approaches and compile relevant material for managers and implementers. The GTZ Sector Network of Rural Development organized the conference.