Windhoek – Government has introduced the first ever capacity-building strategy for resettlement and affirmative action loan scheme farmers, following the realization that the initial schemes were, generally, not yielding the desired results.
The Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) is an alternative to the government’s resettlement programme, which allows individual black Namibians to buy commercial farms on preferential loan terms.
The AALS is complemented by the North South Incentive Scheme, which is a vehicle for communal farmers to sell off their livestock north of the veterinary cordon fence and purchase disease-free livestock south of the fence on a newly acquired farm.
The applicant must have a minimum of 150 large stock or 800 small stock or own productive livestock equivalent to at least 35 percent of official carrying capacity of the farm, which he or she intends purchasing, and have the financial capacity to purchase such livestock.
Land reform minister Utoni Nujoma late last year said a total of 3.4 million hectares have been acquired at a cost of N$762 million under the AALS.
According to reports from Agribank and the Ministry of Land Reform, the poor performance of these initiatives is mainly attributed to lack of farming capacity of the beneficiaries, and the inadequate and unstructured support services offered by various stakeholders.
It was on the basis of these reports that the government recognized the importance of capacitating resettlement and affirmative action loan scheme farmers for them to be more productive.
In this regard, Cabinet decided to transfer the Farmers Support Programme (FSP) that was implemented for the past years by the Ministry of Land Reform in conjunction with Agribank to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF).
Agriculture minister John Mutorwa said the objective of this transfer is to facilitate and improve the provision of services, such as extension and training services to these specific farmers.
He explained that phase I of this programme was implemented by the Ministry of Land Reform in conjunction with Agribank, and was funded by GIZ.
However, with the transfer of the FSP from the land reform ministry to the agriculture ministry, he said, phase II of the same programme will now be implemented by the MAWF and will still be funded by GIZ.
Furthermore, Mutorwa urged all stakeholders to continue collaborating and supporting the MAWF for the successful implementation of the strategy that he launched on Tuesday.
“For the past years the government and our stakeholders in the agricultural sector have been working jointly and tirelessly towards the improvement of farming business on resettlement farms. These concerted efforts are all geared towards helping the farmers to realize their envisaged goal of improved livelihood,” Mutorwa noted.
Therefore, he said, the importance of this strategy cannot be overemphasized, as it will complement the activities currently being carried out to support resettlement farmers.
The strategy has three objectives, namely: to provide targeted intervention to resettlement and affirmative action loan scheme farmers; to provide a rare opportunity to all stakeholders to deliver coordinated activities to farmers; and improve service delivery of the MAWF towards resettlement and AALS farmers.
Mutorwa stressed that the three objectives are in line with the mandate of the agriculture ministry, which is to promote, develop, manage and utilize agricultural, water and forestry resources.
“We therefore expect farmers to have better access to more and better structured and consistent services once this strategy is fully implemented, making them more productive and self-sustaining,” he said. He said the ministry recognizes the existence of challenges that farmers experience during and after their transition from communal to commercial set-ups, adding that the strategy is therefore designed to address some of those challenges.
He stressed that the strategy is not for the agriculture ministry alone, but is for all stakeholders responsible for assisting resettlement and AALS farmers in the country.
Therefore, he requested all stakeholders to take ownership of the strategy in order to jointly enhance agricultural production on resettlement farms and on farms acquired through AALS.