Green Scheme Bogs Down

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Green Scheme programme, Namibia’s blueprint to attain food self-sufficiency, is not moving at the pace the government would have wanted. Although the programme has started, especially with projects in various areas, funding, land issues and confusion among some communities may delay the attainment of Namibia’s goal to put 27ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 hectares of land under irrigation in 15 years. A cost-benefit analysis conducted in 2003, concluded that the programme would total over N$11.2ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ billion, with costs to the government and the private sector being N$3.8ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ billion and N$7.4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ billion respectively over 15 years. Having been discarded as a beneficiary of funds availed for the Millennium Challenge Account, the ministry has to rely on the development budget, which falls far short of the funds needed to develop the 27ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 hectares of land along the five perennial rivers of Namibia, namely: the Orange, Zambezi, Kavango, Kunene and Kwando. The Ministry is looking at other sources of funding such as the German KfW and from the People’s Republic of China to supplement its estimated budget of N$23ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ million meant for 13 projects for the financial year 2007-8, according to its Deputy Director: Agricultural Engineering, Tertius Basson. Apart from finances, the issues of land – especially for development – take time to sort out. Basson told New Era this week that before land could be allocated to various projects, negotiations would have to be carried out with traditional authorities regarding the availability of land, and then there have to be legal processes with the Land Boards and again the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, which Basson said would be time-consuming. This process, including registration of leaseholds with the Deeds Office, can easily take up to a year. In addition, Basson said for existing projects such as Etunda and Shadikongoro, which started before the Green Scheme concept was introduced, had to be converted, which also involved a cumbersome process before small-scale farmers are resettled. “We have to take people along on the new projects. These are farmers who come from a subsistence farming background and who are not necessarily familiar with commercial farming principles. They need a change of perceptions and have to learn new skills,” Basson added. It has also emerged that development in the region with the biggest potential, Caprivi, has been very slow due to confusion among the public on who the stakeholders are and what they are doing. A land-use conference currently being organized by the regional governor will hopefully resolve the problem. Projects where progress has been made include Etunda, Ndonga Linena, Kalimbeza, Aussenkehr and Tandjieskoppe. Delays were also experienced at the Kalimbeza Rice Project due to an electricity supply problem in the region. NORED, the local electricity supplier to the region, then installed a new 500 kVA transformer after the supply from Zambia had been upgraded in late 2006. The ministry is expecting Vietnamese experts in the middle of 2007 to assist Namibians with rice production. The ministry will select farmers to be trained in rice production by the visiting farmers, a process that will start during the first half of 2007. At present, though, the area is flooded and uncertainty remains on how the floods will affect the progress of the project. At Etunda, another irrigation project to be converted to the Green Scheme concept, small-scale farmers owed the project lots of money, resulting in the project’s failure to honour its contractual obligations with suppliers. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry intervened with a credit system where Agribank advanced production loans to farmers against a signature of a mutually agreed contract. In his end-of-year message in December 2006, Agribank Chief Executive Officer, Leonard Iipumbu, said the bank entered into an agreement with the ministry which would see the ministry undertake to pay the bank N$2.7ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ million to fund lending operations to the Etunda farmers. The bank lent N$3.7ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ million to 83 small-scale farmers to be disbursed over 12 months. The Green Scheme Agency, established by the government in 2003, has since advertised for expressions of interest from prospective service providers to start farming on phases 5 and 6 at Etunda and the first two units at Ndonga Linena. Consultants were appointed to do planning and a detailed design of the Tandjieskoppe project, and the ministry has approved that the plot sizes be increased from two to four hectares. Construction is scheduled to start in early 2008. As for Aussenkehr, the farmers reported a good harvest on the project where a pre-cooling facility at the multi-fruit pack house was enlarged and new harvesting equipment was purchased and a pump station was revamped. The success of the Green Scheme will also depend on how small-scale farmers are able to cope with their new farming business. The first 35 trainees at the Mashare Irrigation Training Centre are expected to graduate in September, after which they will be allocated land which has already been prepared at some projects. “Only the successful candidates will be eligible to get land for farming,” added Basson.