Thursday 22 March 2018
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Agriculture is the bedrock of our economy

A week ago I had an opportunity to visit Tsumeb. Tsumeb is one of the oldest towns in northern Namibia.  It was my first time ever to have stayed there for two days.  Following my escapades in the town itself as well as in the surrounding areas in the proximity of this lush town, I went as far as a radius of 50 kilometers. In the end this gave me a hint of how this area could serve as bread basket of this great nation. It also came to my attention that the nearby farms were endowed with corn, mangoes, watermelons, oranges, tomatoes, butternuts, onions among many produces. These were the same commodities I saw being earlier sold in the streets of Tsumeb mainly by the young people including ladies.
During my stay in Tsumeb and at the time of my leaving this evergreen town, I was able to buy some of the produces grown locally. I was inspired by a number of factors. Number one, these commodities were cheap and accessible to anyone as opposed to those sold in the chains of the many shops I have been to.  Number two these produces were so fresh, seemingly containing what a human body would really require in terms of necessary vitamins and minerals. Cardinally speaking, my hypothetical conclusion would be growing these fresh commodities, had created a platform of opportunities to a number unemployed people so that they make ends meet.

I spent less than N$ 200 on my purchase which normally would cost more. This was a great bargain indeed as I was able to boost my stock up for a great number of days ahead. The point I am driving at is that, Tsumeb is such a unique place in terms of crop production. Afforded a chance, it would serve as a bread basket of this great nation due to its fertile land, its above average rainfall and the strategic location among others. Put it realistically, this evergreen town a great potential to produce enough food for the consumers and the excess could then be exported in order for the producers to earn in foreign currency. This would create resourceful opportunities for people and in the ultimate analysis, improve the local economy.
Currently for its goods including fresh products, Namibia relies heavily onto the South African production industry which has a tendency of dumping their produces en masse here. And this is mainly  due to the void in our market. As local consumers, we are therefore left with little option as we are under duress to buy these imported commodities at the expense of the home grown products. Another point of departure is that one hardly finds home grown produces in the local stores. The worst part unfortunately is that whenever these commodities are available in the stores; they cost more than the imports.

In actual fact I was left in a deep web of thoughts. Call it bewilderment -if you so wish. Why this has been allowed to continue for too long, considering the fact that the goods that we import could plausibly be, given a high level of commitment from various stakeholders, replaced with the home grown produces, it is beyond one’s comprehension.
The imports as opposed to exported products might have a great advantage of being produced cheaply and bulk. This is due to the fact that the producers in other countries concentrate on what they are able to produce cheaply and in bulk or at least at the affordable rate. Being an infant industry, in many respects, our producers lack the capacity to compete with those external producers.  External producers have the advantage of accessing low interests loans, subsidies and grants from their respective governments. The same principle should apply here in order to boost local industry. This is if we are to remain relevant and active in this rather high competitive environment.
It is a matter of fact that local producers are faced with a host of challenges. One, naturally rainfall in Namibia is below average and usually seasonal and henceforth the water scarcity is always an issue. Namibia’s climate is rather dry, semi-arid and most of water resources are either seasonal and are far from the mainland making the successful irrigation a tall order.

The perennial rivers in Namibia namely the Okavango and Zambezi are also shared by Angola, Zambia and Botswana. This would render the water sources potentially vulnerable to depletion, should due diligence is not reasonably exercised when these resources are used by either of these countries. As per general principles of international law, these shared resources can’t just be exploited without any consultations among countries sharing them. These consultations could be lengthy at times that they might end up without yielding desired results. As for the Kunene and Orange Rivers, these are somewhat seasonal sources rendering them unable to supply water regularly whenever necessary.
In order to make agriculture the bedrock of this economy, the following should ensue. The development of water infrastructure is the best investment this country must implement as a matter of urgency. The short and medium term strategies are of paramount importance of which water harvesting and building of dams must be some of such strategies. Desalination should be our long term plan as this will improve the situation of water scarcity in our country once and for all.
More attention must be paid to agriculture with the emphasis of quality education and capacity building. Support to the local infant industries in forms of subsidies, loans and grants must be a priority. This would enable producers first of all to be efficient, effective and produce more cheaply and in bulk. This  would also improve quality and standards and allow the local industry be protected whilst simultaneously it competes with larger markets.
As the rainy season approaches, every individual including both communal and commercial farmers whose dream is the see food security in Namibia must do their bit. This commitment is not only aimed at   making a decent living, but also to create job opportunities and scale down the level of poverty. Have a Great Vacation and Prosperous 2018.

Jambo Shipanga, Communal Commentator, WINDHOEK.

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