Windhoek-Despite the potential of the regions of Kavango to be the breadbasket of the country, they derive most of their income from other livelihood activities, says the Governor of the Bank of Namibia, Ipumbu Shiimi.
Shiimi delivered a paper titled Attaining The Vision of a Breadbasket: The Untapped Potential of the Kavango Regions at the University of Namibia Rundu Campus last Monday.
He says the income the regions derive from agriculture is only 13 percent and it thus is important that Namibia addresses the question why the Kavango regions have not been able to realise their potential in agriculture.
He says the regions are strategically located in southern Africa, which presents several advantages in terms of trading, tourism and access to the Kavango River and its associated resources.
The location provides access to large areas in northern Namibia, south-eastern Angola and access to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, says Shiimi. This is a combined market of millions of potential consumers.
Thus, “it is not acceptable that the Kavango regions that sit on such an important resource of the Okavango Basin are the poorest regions in Namibia. There is a need to expand and exploit the economic value of the basin, not only from the tourism perspective, but agriculture as well.”
But such expansion and exploitation must be done in a sustainable manner to ensure the preservation of the quality and integrity of the Okavango Basin.
As much, it is important in the quest for the maximisation of the value of the Okavango Basin, for the residents of the Kavango regions to be the primary beneficiaries.
Shiimi says poor soils, variable climate and distance from the markets are among the main factors contributing to the current situation of agriculture not being a significant source of income to the residents of the two regions.
“There is apparently also conflict or competition for land use between crop and livestock production on land close to the river. In addition, land tenure and lack of infrastructure in remote areas are also identified as challenges limiting realisation of the potential of the regions,” adds Shiimi.
Another important challenge needing addressing is access to finance for agricultural activities, especially in rural areas as limited access to finance particularly for small-scale farmers curbs the potential of agriculture in rural areas, says Shiimi.
“Access to finance is not an end in itself, it must be targeted at improving productivity, the harvest, access to markets and increasing resilience to climate variability.
“Financial service providers in the Kavango regions need to explore financing from small-scale farmers and develop a range of financial products for agricultural activities,” says Shiimi.
He adds that these challenges are not insurmountable as poor soils, for example, can be addressed with modern agricultural technologies.
He says in fact irrigation should be a mitigating tool to climate variability, adding that currently Namibia does not fully utilise the allowable tapping from the shared resource of the Okavango Basin, which represent the potential of irrigation in the two regions.
In terms of access to markets, Shiimi says the two regions are central to large areas for potential markets thus efforts to improve agricultural productivity must be done parallel with investment in infrastructure development.
Investment in food storage facilities is also important and in terms of tenure system the situation needs addressing.
For the regions to realise their agricultural potential, the youth also need to have a stake in agricultural projects and schemes integrating and targeting the youth. Green scheme initiatives must be so modelled to make residents of the two regions and the youth the primary beneficiaries.