Certain white farmers in Namibia need a paradigm shift in their way of thinking and have to shake their false belief that black farmers are inferior beings. This negative line of thinking, 26 years after independence, is still hurting livestock farming and restraining the full potential of black farmers.
These strong words came from chief organiser of the annual Okamatapati Show Albert Tjihero, when he officially opened the 28th version of the popular show of the Ongombe Farmers Association (OFA) on Thursday evening at the Windhoek Show Grounds.
Tjihero argued that three years of consecutive drought and the implementation of absurd South African import rules have changed the landscape of Namibian livestock farming forever.
“In this changed and weakened landscape, we need Namibian farmers to stand shoulder to shoulder and face the challenges. We need each other more than ever before, and I therefore find it strange that some white farmers still regard most black farmers as inferior. Ironically, most of these white farmers have inherited good farmland, unlike most black farmers who had to wait for affirmative action and resettlement farms,” he noted.
Tjihero says government must also now come to the party. “While I urge white farmers with lots of land to make available something for potentially excellent black farmers, I also urge government to stick to their promises of land reform and speed up the process. Another disturbing fact is the amount of farmland in the hands of foreigners. It’s absurd,” he lamented.
He says government has for too long played a reactive role regarding challenges facing livestock farming. ”This fact was demonstrated by the lack of pro-active thinking about consecutive droughts and water shortages, as well as the implementation of the new SA livestock import regulations on July 1.
“Our livestock industry of some N$2 billion per annum gets caught way too many times with its pants down. It does not have to be like that; it’s time for positive, new-age thinking for the better of every inhabitant of Namibia,” he said to loud applause.
Tjhero stressed that reactive thinking and a certain sector restraining the full potential of black farmers are hurting the livestock sector and indeed, the country’s economy. “Let us not forget that some 70 percent of all Namibians rely directly or indirectly on agriculture for a livelihood. Those that withhold the livestock sector from its full potential are playing with fire as they restrain the full growth potential of the sector and indeed, also the national economy, the country,” he noted.
Demonstrating the spirit in which all Namibian livestock farmers should embrace each other in tough and trying times, he welcomed renowned Brahman breeder Danie Botes on stage as the first white producer to exhibit his renowned White Brahmans at the Okamatapati Show.
“It took us 27 years to get animals from top white breeders in our show pens, and I hope this is all about to change. Some of the country’s foremost white judges have been judging our cattle for decades and they all agree that black communal and emerging farmers have some of the best genetics money can buy. There are no more excuses; we have to take hands and get the best genetics into the Namibian livestock pot for the future,” Tjihero urged.
He complimented members of the OFA who made tremendous efforts to bring their animals from as far as Epikuro, Aminuis and Okamatapati at huge costs. He also hailed them for the quality of livestock exhibited at the show in tough times of severe drought.
“These animals look splendid but their condition comes at a high cost. No farmer can keep on feeding his prized stock and therefore government has to come to the table so that we can drum out policies tailor-made for Namibian conditions to combat drought and enhance resilience to drought. Government must also ensure that no landowner – black or white – sits idly on unproductive farmland,” Tjihero noted.
Tjihero also had it in for big brand sponsors who avoid the agricultural sector. “Agriculture is the backbone of the Namibian economy but yet, when you drive around looking at billboard advertising and general advertising in newspapers and magazines, it becomes apparent that agriculture has to suck on the last teat of the industry. This is another imbalance; these sponsors must zoom in and support one of the most important pillars of the economy,” he concluded.