Monday 14 June 2021
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How black farmers failed their race

The land debate is at the centre of a political crossroad that we find ourselves as a country. But one thing we ought to admit is that perceptions and the  narrative that blacks will turn productive farms into unproductive farms once given land, are by no means unguided.
Black commercial farm owners have not done much to prove that blacks will be productive, once given land. Most of the household names who own farms in Namibia have gotten those farms through affirmative action schemes and have done little to make their farms productive.
The farm settings have become a place of leisure instead of work. The trend of buying a few cattle, drill a borehole, build a farmhouse and call themselves farmers has engulfed most blacks who own farms. But a closer look at these farms and their productive levels, shows that these farms are mere drinking holes for weddings and anniversary parties or places for weekend getaways with concubines.
Engagement in the farming activities Actual farm work seldom takes place. Only a handful number of black farmers have managed to make a meaningful contribution to feed the nation as well as grow the country’s economy. Others simply have farms as a status symbol, disregarding the need to derive this maximum benefits from the farmlands
Hence, I say, productive black farm owners are being punished and judged for the failures of the blacks that owned farms before them. Doubts have since been created whether it is wise for government to buy farms for resettlement purposes without financial contribution to resettlement beneficiaries and prior farming experience.
We cannot blame those who control the narrative that blacks will not productively use the land.
It is of course unfair to punish everyone because of the failure of some, but if the past lessons are anything to go by, I have reservations when it comes to moving farms from white hands to black hands. A seismic shift in the way we view farming is needed to change these perceptions.
Having worked in Kavango Region a few years back, I must take my hat off for our black small-scale farmers. Some of them surely produce more food than their black counterparts who own large tracts of land.
Small-scale farmers who were given pieces of land within the government-owned green scheme farms and those operating outside these schemes have proven that blacks can contribute significantly to the food basket of Namibia. Some of the impediments for growth amongst small-scale farmers is the lack of technical and financial support as well as growth avenues because they have no land title deeds and access to  credit for inputs, mechanisation and other pressing farming needs.  What is even more painful is, local markets for produces are not accessible, while at the same time we remain net importers of vegetables and grains. We are failing our people.
We must remain cognisant of the fact that farming is an intensive practice that has been modernised from the old school plough, sow and harvest techniques to new technologically advanced farming methods.
Our small-scale farmers need upskilling to keep up with modern trends, one begs to ask whether this is being done?
The unique circumstances of black farmers today range from the search for new markets, access to credit and full usability to all government programs.
Land reform is not always grandstanding affairs like a Boston Tea Party. Land ownership must be valued for its potential to feed the nation instead of its potential to provide a secret environment for parties.
By highlighting this, I am by no means implying that black will people are not capable to run highly productive farms, it is possible, but we still have a long way to go.
I am also not saying whites are best farmers, there are some who have run farms into the ground, but the majority continue to run highly competitive farms.
Kudos to the blacks who farm in the real sense, not weekend farmers, it is therefore my hope that successful black farmers will come to the fore at the eagerly-awaited Land Conference and share their experiences. After all, it is always easier to be motivated when you see one of your own who has done it.

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