Despite the obvious relationship between commercial farmers and their emerging new cohort hailing from communal areas but now charting the uncharted waters of commercial farming, the question must have been paramount, if only silently, in the minds of the broader public if there ever was any relationship between the two.
Especially in view of the fact more often than not emerging commercial farmers, by the mere fact that they hail from communal areas, have been associated more with the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), which has been more active and predominant in its activities among communal farmers, rather than with the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), the flagship of commercial farming, and before independence predominantly the mother-father body of white farmers, die boere.
But unknown to casual observers, things have been changing since independence, especially with the entry of previously disadvantaged, or communal farmers, into commercial farming. The intense, but gradual, realisation among these farmers is that the NNFU can no longer continue to serve their interests towards full graduation into commercial farming, as much as the NAU equally cannot serve them duly in this regard – hence, the birth of the NECFU.
Despite having been in existence for some time now, with its first ordinary congress held in October 2013, the union seems to have been conspicuously absent on many a farming platform, if altogether it has not been non-existence. Moreover, there is an explanation for that. It has been operating from the respective remote farms of its members, and from their “cell phones” as one of these farmers, Daniel Mahua confirms because of lack of a permanent office where they could converge. The union, despite having a leadership structure all these years, lacked a discernible head office from which it could operate and thus physically united its membership, its operations have in reality been an off and on and stop and go affair. And as much its influence and impact on the relevant government policies, or any other policy that may have a bearing on the wellbeing of its members.
But this is destined to be a thing of the past, as Mahua has lately been settling into an office in the NAU building. This is an outflow of the symbiosis between the NAU and NECFU that has been nurturing slowly but is now starting to bear fruit giving accentuation to the all necessary and critical synergy between commercial farmers and their emerging counterparts. Admittedly, lack of a fixed operational abode by the emerging commercial farmers has been like a spanner in their works.
Among its major pre-occupations in the future is raising funds. As of now, it has no donors and has been relying on own resources. Even in terms of the windfalls from the government, or any other source like the Meat Board of Namibia levies, it has not been able to benefit falling between the NNFU and the NAU. Thus, it is working on assuming its own identity, as an emerging commercial farmers union – a category warranting own identity and thus not falling in either commercial or communal category. But this is not the end of the story because these farmers themselves, as Mahua well emphasises, urgently need a paradigm shift – a shift from subsistence farming to commercialisation.
But the Agricultural Bank of Namibia must help them in this regard, as opposed to abrogating itself the function of a cash cow. Mahua, is adamant that this is not what Agribank has been created and mandated to do. But on this for another time with these farmers today intending to handover a petition to the bank after converging in Windhoek yesterday from all corners of the country.