Vice-President Dr Nickey Iyambo yesterday promised the Namibian Agricultural Union he would seek answers to some of the most pressing problems facing commercial farmers.
This will be done during consultations with the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, within the next few days, he added.
Iyambo made the promise when he officially launched the 70th annual NAU Congress yesterday in Windhoek, where he sympathised with farmers regarding their plight and expressed his deep concern about the steadily declining contribution of agriculture towards the country’s GDP.
“Since 70 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, and it being the largest employer of 29 percent of our labour force, this sector is of strategic importance to Namibia’s development,” he added.
Iyambo, who is acting as president in the absence of President Hage Geingob, who is attending an investment meeting in South Africa, said a reflection on the NDP4 from 2012/2013 to 2016/17 shows that agriculture was identified as one of the top priority sectors due to its significant growth potential and strategic importance.
“However, while in the NDP4 period the overall growth target for agriculture was 4 percent, the effective result was a disappointing minus 0.06 percent. This negative growth emanated from the sharp drops in the projected rates of the two biggest agricultural subsectors, livestock (4.1 percent) and crop farming (3.9 percent) to -2.3 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively,” said the vice-president.
“In turn, the drops are ascribed to the devastating effects of drought on agriculture, given that both sectors are rain dependent.”
He said the 2015 national accounts also paint a similarly downward scenario: accordingly, agriculture and forestry’s combined contributions to GDP declined from 4.9 percent in 2012 to 3.2 percent in 2015; livestock farming from 3.0 percent to 1.9 percent, and crop farming from 1.9 percent to 1.3 percent over the same period.
“The downward trends are a cause for national concern, requiring all of us as stakeholders to collaborate and find solutions,” he stated.
He stressed that the expected contribution from the agricultural sector to eliminate hunger and poverty must be achieved through improved production output and value addition.
“Farmers and organisations like the NAU are strongly encouraged to continue playing a positive role in this regard; same as it has been doing with the training and incorporation of emerging commercial famers, and similar supportive actions.
“Government remains committed to allocating ten percent of the annual budget to agriculture in line with the 2003 Maputo Declaration, and to raise agriculture’s productivity to six percent. It has therefore steadily increased allocations to the agricultural sector.
“But these allocations have shifted towards green scheme developments to enhance food security and market access for livestock products from the northern communal areas,” he stated.
With reference to the looming teachers’ strike, Iyambo said such actions make life difficult for government. “Who do you give the money to? Striking teachers, or hungry people?”
He expressed hope for a good rainy season and urged all farmers to be part of President Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan.
“For the agricultural sector unity is of utmost importance to bring about shared prosperity for all and elimination of poverty from the face of Namibia,” said the vice-president.
The NAU has about 3 000 members.