By Petronella Sibeene
Former Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Nickey Iyambo, yesterday noted that progress has been made in most crucial projects aimed at giving Namibia food security.
Namibia imports over 65 percent of its food products.
In an interview with New Era shortly after biding his staff farewell, Iyambo said one such project where progress was recorded was in making mahangu a controlled commodity like other grain crops. This means no mahangu will be imported into Namibia until such a period when the locally produced mahangu has run out.
Namibia intends to keep at least one-third of its food produce for local consumption.
Last year, the ministry started subsidising seeds, fertilisers, ploughing and weeding activities for grain farmers running into millions of dollars with the aim to encourage farmers to contribute towards food security in the country.
While he could not indicate how much the ministry spent last year, Iyambo said it would be difficult to determine the positive results of such an exercise this year as floods have destroyed fields in most food producing regions. He was, however, positive that the initiative would have positive results in future.
Efforts aimed at sensitising grain producing farmers have been ongoing, the minister added.
About 70 percent of the country’s population depends on agricultural activities (largely subsistence agriculture) for its livelihood.
Iyambo also revealed that silos would strategically be located in food producing regions, namely Caprivi, Kavango, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto regions.
Food production initiatives have long been lagging behind due to limited resources.
Iyambo explained that internationally, leaders realised that less money is allocated towards food production. Because of that, African leaders agreed that 10 percent of their national budget should be allocated to food production.
In Namibia, the agriculture budget has vacillated from three to six percent of the national budget, Iyambo said.
According to Iyambo, this year, the Minister of Finance Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila ensured that the ministry receives the recommended 10 percent.
“A year ago, we started sensitising people in Parliament on the issue and this year we reached the 10 percent,” he said.
The money will be used on priority projects such as the Green Scheme, which Iyambo described as a great challenge.
He says that Namibia given its climatic conditions cannot entirely depend on rain to grow its food.
With the Green Scheme, irrigation projects were implemented at the Orange, Kunene, Kavango and Zambezi rivers. The Hardap region also has an irrigation scheme.
“This will ensure that during the dry years, Namibia will still have food,” Iyambo added.
Apart from food production, the ministry also embarked on a pedigree bulls and rams project.
Namibians, especially those in the rural areas, have for years farmed with substandard breeds.
In 2004, the ministry decided to give out animals of high quality gene traits.
To date, the Government has given out more than 100 animals of good quality in communal farms.
However, commercial farmers can also acquire the breed type through auctions held by the Government.
Iyambo identified lack of veterinary doctors as the main challenge in this effort.
There are few Namibian veterinary surgeons.
While training remains the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Iyambo said the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in the past years introduced bursaries for Namibians to study in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Plans are underway for aspiring veterinary surgeons to study in Ethiopia and Ghana.
“Generally, Namibian rural farmers make their livelihood through farming animals. There is need for veterinary surgeons to look into the health of the animals,” Iyambo said.
Annually, the Government spends more than N$7 million on vaccinating animals against common diseases like foot-and-mouth and other lung ailments.
Another area that will improve the agriculture sector, the minister said, will be the restructuring of Meatco.
The perception has been that Meatco is an organisation for white farmers only, the minister added. Restructuring will thus ensure that all Namibians accrue the benefits that such an institution offers.
Once restructuring takes place, a feedlot will be set up in the north, Iyambo said. The facility will provide food for animals during dry seasons.
“Last year, animals died because there was nowhere to go and eat (graze),” he lamented.