Namibia: N$15m Red Line Budget Irks Schlettwein

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MINISTER of agriculture, water and land reform Calle Schlettwein has expressed concern over the insufficient budget allocated for government efforts to remove the red line.

The main objective for removing the veterinary cordon fence is to facilitate access to domestic, regional and international markets for agricultural commodities and products from the northern communal areas.

The red line was erected in the 1890s during the German colonisation of South West Africa to control infectious diseases among livestock.

It was later used by the South African apartheid regime to control the north-south movement of indigenous people and their livestock.

After independence, the government has made several promises to address the issue of the red line, but nothing has materialised to date.

The removal of the red line enjoyed prominence at the second national land conference in 2018, which directed the government to start the gradual removal of the border.

There are three possible solutions to the red line for the government’s consideration:

This involves the gradual removal of the red line, which would require a physical border to be built between Namibia and Angola, the translocation of the fence to the border with Angola, and the creation of zones that are free of foot-and-mouth disease and CBPP (lung sickness) within 30 kilometres of both sides of the Namibia-Angola border, in line with World Organisation for Animal Health standards.

Schlettwein said the N$15 million budget allocated is not enough to implement any of these projects.

He said it is not enough to start with the construction of a double-stock fence between Namibia and Angola.

“In its current state the red line is more than an animal disease control barrier. It has, in the eyes of the general public, become a political and socio-economic barrier that continues to divide the country into two distinct economies.

“The ideal solution would be the construction of a fence along the border between Namibia and Angola, but the N$15 million allocated for this purpose in the current financial year is not sufficient to commence with the construction of a double-stock proof fence over 450 kilometres,” Schlettwein said.

The Namibian reported in 2018 there was an estimated 1,6 million head of cattle, about 700 000 goats, and 430 000 sheep in the northern communal areas.

Schlettwein said his ministry plans to implement activities that would mitigate the negative effects of the red line “as a priority to address one of the resolutions of the second national land conference”.

According to the minister, this includes the construction of abattoirs to enhance beef value-chain addition in the northern communal areas (NCAs), which would cost more than N$31 million.

The construction of abattoirs in the NCA is estimated to cost N$75 million.

The ministry also plans to upgrade eight quarantine facilities in the NCAs to improve animal health and marketing.

The targeted quarantine facilities are at Omutambo-Gwomawe, Okongo, Oshivelo, Mangetti, Mpungu, Thomas Siyave, Kopano and Katima Mulilo.

The animal health project also includes the annual vaccination against foot and mouth disease (FMD) and the contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) of about 1,3 million head of cattle in the NCAs.

The total budget to implement these projects is over N$87 million, but the government only allocated about N$25 million. Schlettwein said the deficit of 71% would have to be sourced from elsewhere.

These activities are also contained in the ministry’s NCA livestock strategic plan launched last year.

The Namibian reported last year that the European Union would provide over N$280 million to fund the implementation of projects under this plan over the next four years.

Schlettwein expressed concern over the continued government underfunding and overall lack of investments into the agricultural sector.

According to the minister, the public and private sector investment in the agriculture sector has been on the decline, dropping from an average of 4,6% “10 years ago to the current 3,6%”.

This is despite the sector having created more than 167 000 employment opportunities which is equivalent to 15,3% of Namibia’s workforce.

The ministry was allocated a total budget of N$2,2 billion.

This includes N$929 million for the provision of water.

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