The Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) has taken the initiative to conduct a study to improve the current marketing system to enable smallholder producers to derive greater benefits from their livestock.
Speaking to Farmers Forum, communal and emerging farmers in various regions expressed their gratitude for the NNFU initiative as they have been in a long-standing battle to achieve the full benefits from their livestock due to a lopsided marketing system. Confirming the initiative, spokesperson of the NNFU, Vetuundja Kazapua, told Farmers Forum such a study is long overdue and should prove that adjustments is urgently needed to improve the marketing system of smallholder producers. “NNFU is now inviting eligible and interested individuals or organisations to submit their expression of interest to conduct such a study to enable these farmers to derive the benefits they deserve. The study should be conducted from June 15 to July 31,” he confirms. Kazapua says smallholder farmers in Namibia currently receive a small fraction of the ultimate value of their output mainly due to marketing of a few goats, sheep or beef weaners as individuals through farm sales or auctions involving a few traders or exporters.
Renowned Brahman breeder and community leader, Albert Tjihero, says the study could not have come at a better time. “Communal and emerging farmers in the Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions have been suffering for long enough without proper marketing tools. On top of that, certain auctioneers take advantage of these farmers’ inabilities to market their livestock properly. The auctioneers use their infrastructure like transport and feeding lots to buy livestock from these struggling farmers and then sell them for handsome profits at auctions in bigger towns. These producers are deprived of what should be legally but they just don’t have the ways and means of marketing their animals in a proper fashion,” he laments.
The NNFU study is funded by the Supporting Farmer Organisations in ‘Africa Programme (SFOAP) implemented by the Southern Africa Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) through the NNFU.
SFOAP is supporting investigation of opportunities for strengthening the position of farmers in the value chain through provision of economic services by farmers’ organisations in Namibia. In Southern Africa more than 90 percent of animal keepers are classified as smallholders. In Namibia and elsewhere, smallholders have to work under specific circumstances, which differ from those of pastoralists, whose management of rangelands and crops is well documented.
Smallholders in Namibia rely predominantly on livestock and therefore have to organise the management of crop fields in a different way. Right from the beginning of agricultural science in the early nineteenth century, agricultural science and smallholders had a rather ambivalent relationship. This ambivalent relationship is still evident in policy documents in Southern Africa and does not facilitate meaningful support for smallholders by extension officers agricultural scientists.
In recent years, great progress has been made in some African countries such as Zimbabwe with respect to supporting smallholders, but approaches such as the participatory extension approaches (PEA) or participatory technology development (PTD) concentrate on soil and water conservation and crop variety development. Animal husbandry is hardly tackled.
In times of economic crisis, the importance of smallholder agriculture increases, as has been proved many times. Supporting smallholder agriculture may not increase food production for export markets to the same extent as large-scale commercial farming, but smallholder agriculture plays an important role in giving rural people access to food, and its continuous neglect can have severe negative social consequences.
NNFU says the closing date for submission of expression of interest is June 5 at 17:00. Technical and financial proposals should be submitted in separate sealed envelopes to the NNFU Head Office, 4 Axali Doeseb Street, Windhoek West, Windhoek.