By Desie Heita
John Mutorwa, the new Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is as indomitable as any farmer in this semi-arid Namibia would be.
The fact that he has led the youth, sport and education portfolios for the larger part of his presence in the National Assembly has not dampened the resolve to see action on the ground.
Instead, Mutorwa boldly asks the media to take him to task and hold him accountable on the Ministry’s actual delivery versus the stated targets.
He wishes, for instance, that the press corps would bombard him with regular requests for updates on the construction of the silos, or on the progress of the Rural Poverty Reduction Programme.
Government has put aside N$9,152 million during the 2008/09 financial year, for construction of silos – grain storage facilities – in the regions.
Already complete are four silos, with combined capacity of 4600 tonnes, for Rundu in Kavango Region.
In Ohangwena Region, the silos are being constructed at Okongo. Here, construction is in phases, with the first phase being for a silo of 500 tonnes.
It would be ready by the end of July. The second phase is to construct additional silos with a capacity of 2500 tonnes. “Construction tender documentation [has been submitted] to the Tender Board,” said Mutorwa.
Further, construction of four silos for Katima Mulilo is on schedule. The last silos should be ready by mid-July. The four silos have a combined capacity of 5400 tonnes. Omuthiya will have silos with a combined capacity of 3 000 tonnes. The work is underway for the construction of the first 500 tonnes capacity silo, also due for completion in mid-July. Other silos would follow as soon as the Tender Board finalises the needed documents. Tsandi would only have silos during the 2009/10 financial year.
Government has started using the completed silos, with the Rundu silos currently storing 1100 tonnes of white maize. Government has put aside N$6 million for the procurement of cereal that will be stored in the silos.
“White maize intake has already started. Currently 1 100 tonnes [of white maize] of the approximately 3 300 tonnes that are immediate surplus in the Kavango Region were procured and stored in Government silos in Rundu.
Further deliveries are arriving daily,” said Mutorwa.
Three silos would be filled with maize and the other with wheat. The wheat silo contains 100 tons of wheat from Mashare Irrigation and Training Centre. “It will be filled as more deliveries arrive,” said Mutorwa.
The only concern to Mutorwa is the shortage of funds needed to effectively purchase the surplus produced by farmers in Kavango and Caprivi Region.
“We need N$11,5 million for the current financial year. However, the [N$6 million] budgeted is far less than expected. We will address this deficit in the 2009/10 financial year,” said Mutorwa.
The Rural Poverty Reduction is also on course, albeit with its challenges as well. Under this programme, for which Government has budgeted N$13 million, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is constructing a feedlot at Etunda Irrigation Scheme. The feedlot would be managed my Meatco. The two parties are already in the final stage of hammering out the lease agreement. The problem, however, is on “striking a balance between crop and livestock production at Etunda, which was initially meant for crop production. Now the ministry wants to use the space planned for phase six and phase seven, phases meant to accommodate further irrigation spaces, into a feedlot space and animal feed production. “Another suitable site for construction of feedlots needs to be found,” said Mutorwa.
Construction and budgeting has never really been a major challenge to most ministries. The challenge rather, especially for the agricultural ministry, has always been the ability, or inability, for Namibia to produce sufficient for its own consumption. This is more urgent especially with the current fears gripping world about food shortages, high food prices, and difficult global economy.
Mutorwa speaks of three projects that the ministry has put in place to “ensure that Namibia produces enough food for its consumption”.
These include the Support to Dry-Land Crop Production in terms of fertilisers, seeds and ploughing services; the Green Scheme project; and the Horticulture, Production, Marketing and Processing project.
The first two projects are underway. Preparation for this year’s vouchers for subsidisation of seeds, fertilisers and ploughing services has started. Tenders for the purchase of 10 tractors and implements is under preparation.
As for the third project, a report is still pending. The third project is a concept that proposes the building of cold storage facilities. The concept was put before Mutorwa’s predecessor at the ministry.
Not all is green, however. Mutorwa says the ministry needs “at least an additional amount of N$100 million to purchase tractors, seeds and fertilisers in order to fully implement the Support to Dry-Land Crop Production project.”
As far as challenges are concerned, Mutorwa faces a number of them. His ministry, together with that of fisheries, is still to have 10 percent of the national budget, in line with the Maputo Declaration.
Together with other African states, Namibia committed itself to allocate at least 10 percent of its total annual budget to the agricultural sector. For the current financial year, the budget allocation for agriculture, forestry and fisheries is 5 percent. Agriculture bagged 3.9 percent; fisheries got 0.8 percent; forestry received a mere 0.3 percent.
“Government is still striving to increase the agricultural sector’s budget to meet the 10 percent commitment. I hope such commitments would be met during the Third National Development Plan,” said Mutorwa.