President of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), Derek Wright, applauds the government for political stability, peace and progress in Namibia after the 2014 national elections.
“This political dynamic ensures that we, as the commercial agricultural sector, could continue our relationship with our political leaders of continued communication, brought about by the Open Door Policy adopted by Cabinet. I applaud government for allowing us to share our concerns regarding agriculture with them,” he says in his annual report to be tabled at the upcoming NAU Congress on October 8 in Windhoek.
Wright says 2015 was, for organised agriculture in Namibia, a year of many challenges. “It started with the concern of a possible drought over the whole of Namibia, and this specifically after the 2013 drought, which had affected everybody negatively. “However, it was clear that these challenges did not get the better of our members and feedback from the regional representatives at the Executive Council meetings was always positive,” he notes.
He says they were not altogether prepared for the challenges with which 2015 was to present them as Namibian farmers were initially faced with the uncertainties brought about by the political dynamic of a national election. It was interesting to note that the Namibian government recognised that agriculture was an important link in the government policy of “Growth at Home”, and therefore an important component of the government’s development programmes.
“In this regard, may I compliment the Agricultural Employers Association for their leadership in the sphere of the most prominent employer of unskilled labour in Namibia. We are a country where there is a huge skills mismatch between school leavers/university graduates and the labour market. This results in a major problem of unemployment, which could have a huge socio-economic impact on political stability.
“The agricultural sector employs some thirty-four percent of the unskilled labour force in Namibia, and the leadership of the Agricultural Employers Association has introduced programmes that provide our agricultural employers with ideas and projects to improve the skill levels and living conditions of their employees.
“It is pleasing to note that the local media has not had to report on the political sensitive issue of farm evictions by commercial farmers for the past number of years,” he stresses.
But he also notes his concern regarding the productivity of the Namibian workforce. He says statistics produced by international agencies have shown that Namibia is rated among the lowest category of productivity of their labour force. And he believes that alcohol misuse is a major contributor to this problem. He pleads with the government to introduce steps to reach a solution to this national problem. “In addition to the problems brought about by the drought throughout Namibia in 2015, a major potential catastrophe presented itself with the outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) of Namibia. The economic impact of this outbreak would be immense if it was not controlled. Fortunately, our members in the Outjo, GTO, Gobabis and Otjiwarongo regions immediately went into action to monitor the veterinary cordon fence, and the feedback received was not very encouraging. There were a number of areas where this fence had been destroyed by lack of maintenance by the veterinary authorities, as well as destruction by local communities that were in search of grazing resulting from drought in their communities.”
NAU members took it upon themselves to organise working parties to repair the areas where the fence was in disrepair. This was initially done at their own expense, but the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) immediately sprang into action, and coordinated the campaign with the cooperation of the Meat Board and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) to provide the resources required to contain this outbreak.
NAU also supported by encouraging its members to provide manpower, make financial contribution to the NAU Contingency Fund. The commercial business sector in Namibia, aware of the negative economic impact should the Foot-and-Mouth virus spread to the commercial agricultural sector, also made contributions in kind and cash to our funding initiative. “This Foot-and-Mouth crisis once again spotlighted the importance of maintaining the animal health status of our livestock, which is of national importance, particularly as the livestock sector of agriculture in Namibia is an important component of the economic well-being of our country,” Wright observes.