Big boost for Nam communal farmers

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Tiri Masawi

Windhoek – Namibia’s government is putting together a plan to make it easier for communal farmers to access financing and to cushion them against adverse weather.

In addition, the state is working out modalities to allow communal farmers in the north and northeast of the country to access lucrative beef markets. The farmers have been restricted by apartheid era dictates that classified meat products from many black farmers as unfit for the market.

With the country experiencing its worst drought in 60 years, Namibia’s Finance Minister Ipumbu Shiimi this week told journalists in Windhoek that government was working on ways to support subsistence farming.

Commercial banks in the country generally require immovable property as collateral for loans because they say the 99-year leases issued to communal farmers are not bankable.

It is a situation that persists in many Southern African countries were at least 60 percent of the population survives on smallholder farming without financial or technical support.

With the COVID-19 pandemic coming on top of a summer cropping season of too much rain in some areas and too little in others, subsistence farmers across the region have found themselves in a particularly precarious position.

Many countries’ food security in terms of maize has historically been premised on the output of subsistence farmers and smallholders even though they are often marginalised when it comes to formal public and private sector financial and technical backing.

“Communal farmers … are an important component of the economy and need to be supported,” Minister Shiimi said. “Plans are afoot to make sure that they receive loans with less restrictive collateral conditions to allow them the opportunity to access loans.

“Consultations are underway to find a lasting solution to this problem and not only to them, but to the whole farming community in general.

“It’s imperative to emphasise that resources are never enough but need to be optimally used. So in the case of communal farmers, they can be allowed to access loans using their other movable and immovable properties aside from the 99-year leases. This will make it easy for them to produce and also sustain their production.”

While Namibia’s major cereal producers are in the “Maize Triangle” of Otavi, Grootfontein and their surrounding areas, a huge number of sorghum and millet producers augment national food security on their landholdings in the northern part of the country.

Meanwhile, President Hage Geingob also said his government was exploring modalities to lift the “redline” which was imposed in the colonial era to stop black farmers in the north and northeast from participating in lucrative national and international meat markets.

“My assessment is that this is work in progress and we have experts working to resolve this issue of the benefit of everyone,” he said.

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