Government has been urged to support smallholder farmers in terms of improved seeds, fertilisers, logistics, water availability, training and appropriate implements. Landless People’s Movement (LPM) parliamentarian Edmund Isaaks requested the National Assembly last week. Contributing to the national budget debate last week, Isaaks said the goal should be to have deliberate policies to support transition processes, graduating subsistence farmers into smallholder farmers and ultimately into commercial farmers.
“Now that agriculture and land reform ministries are lumped together, we hoped that there would be greater synergies so as to offer financing, implements, extension services and other vital assistance,” said the new MP. He said the obscure State-owned Agricultural Business Development Agency (Agribusdev) must broaden its scope and mandate beyond the green schemes.
“The agency should not narrowly focus on government-identified green scheme farmers only. To assist the smallholder farmers, there is a need to establish an Agricultural Investment Fund (AIF), modelled in a similar manner as the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF),” he said. He said the AIF, hosted by Agribusdev, could offer grants and soft loans to support budding farmers to expand their enterprises. “These are small entrepreneurs who may not necessarily qualify for ordinary Agribank loans,” he said.
According to him, his party last year dispatched a research mission to Aussenkehr and Noordoewer, headed by the party youth command element, Duminga Ndala, who submitted a “shocking report” to the party’s political action committee.
Isaaks says the report highlighted that the grape farming enterprises of Aussenkehr and Noordoewer make significant profits annually.
He said from 14 companies that produced grapes, only four are Namibian owned. “As part of agricultural revolution in the context of rural economic industrialisation, if new entrants could be allowed into the grape farming industry with commensurate skills and knowledge transfer from existing role-players, it will add value to our domestic investments drive,” he said. He said this industry alone could bring in N$1.5 billion annually.
He said what is more disgraceful is the fact that the grape farming sector derives huge profit margins but allows workers to live in reed structures and shacks. “When nature calls, these workers use Orange River. There is no electricity or potable water,” he said.
He said while governor of the //Kharas region, LPM leader Bernadus Swartbooi applied pressure on the government and grape companies to fast-track the process of building a new township at Aussenkehr and to have public-private sector housing development.