Government’s efforts continue to bear fruit in the provision of agricultural extension services. The following is an in-depth interview with Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry
the Percy Wachata Misika
What is the Ministry’s role in assisting small to medium scale farmers with extension services?
Agricultural extension can be defined as a function of providing needed and demand driven knowledge and skills to rural women, men and youth in a non –formal and participatory manner with the objective of improving their livelihoods.
This is done in line with national and Ministerial policies and strategies such as Vision 2030 NDP 5, HPP, Namibia Agriculture Policy, Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry Strategic Plan 2017/18 to 2021/22, and Harambee Comprehensively Coordinated Integrated Agriculture Development Programme (HACCIADEP).
The Ministry’s role in assisting small to medium scale farmers in contributing to improved agriculture performance is well known, particularly in knowledge, skills and technology transfer, farmers’ mobilization and organization support, and facilitation of market linkages. In order to achieve this, the Ministry has adopted a Farming System Research and Extension (FSRE) approach which has three principles including:
Demand driven: Services that are rendered are a result of the demands based on the farmers/producers needs
Multi-disciplinary: Involvement of extension, research and other stakeholders such as academia, cooperatives, farmers unions responding to farmers needs in multi-disciplinary teams
Participatory: farmers involvement in agricultural technology development processes across the entire value chain is central to enhancing adaption and adoption
The Ministry’s Extension strategies involve the following:
Disseminations of agricultural technologies through establishment of on-station demonstration plots at Ministry’s Agricultural Development Centres and on-farm demonstration plots at farmers’ fields.
Knowledge and skills are imparted to farmers through field days during demonstrations. This includes method demonstrations such as minimum tillage, fertilizer application, and planting methods. The results of these demonstrations such as improved yields and soil fertility improvement, shows the farmers the benefits of carrying out the above Good Agricultural Practices.
Conducting farmers information days on market information and new innovations
Conducting exchange visits with successful farmers allows other farmers to learn more through observation.
Collaboration with key stakeholders and partner organizations that play key roles in the development of agriculture
Provision of farmers training and advisory services on both agronomy and animal husbandry.
Conducting “farmer to farmer” extension through lead farmer model and farmers field schools
How is the Ministry making sure that mechanization is a key component of Agriculture in Namibia?
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has been implementing a farm mechanization subsidy scheme under the Dry Land Crop Production Programme (DCPP) whereby Government subsidizes inputs such as seeds and fertilizers as well as services such as ploughing, ripping, planting and weeding services.
The scheme is mainly targeted at women and youth producers, but in practice all producers in the regions who register for this service are usually assisted.
About 15,000 hectares are serviced under this programme across the country, representing about 30,000 producers.
To successfully implement the other HACCIADEP schemes such as NCA Beef Value Chain Development Scheme, NCA Beef Value Chain Development Scheme Operation Mechanism, Agricultural Mechanization Scheme, Small Stock Meat Value Chain Development Scheme, Horizontal Value Chain Development Scheme, Mechanism of Horizontal Value Chain Development Scheme, Cereals Value Chain Development Scheme, Poultry Value Chain Development Scheme, Dairy Value Chain Development Scheme, De-Bushing and Bush Value Development Scheme and the Seed System Development Scheme, it is essential to ensure that the small-scale producers and agro-processors involved are empowered through an effective agricultural mechanization scheme.
To this end, MAWF has secured N$1.Billion from the AFDB for enhancing the mechanization of the Namibian agriculture sector.
The Ministry’s Agricultural Mechanization Scheme is planned to operate as follows:
Small scale producers and small scale agro-processors shall be organized into associations/cooperatives, into which they will be required to save part of their income regularly in a group bank account, which shall accrue to each individual producer’s savings.
The producers group, with the assistance of MAWF and its agencies shall identify suitable machinery and equipment necessary for individual members farming, irrigation, agro-processing, transportation and other unit operation needs.
The individual members and group, supported by MAWF shall obtain the necessary quotations for the procurement of the types of machinery or equipment required;
The producers/agro-processors group shall set a savings threshold, which an individual member is required to attain before qualifying for a set value of a loan from the Savings and Credit Account (SCA) for machinery or equipment acquisition. In order to make the credit affordable, SCA loans shall be lent to members at lower interest rates.
What would you say are the challenges associated with making sure farmers receive services in time?
The Ministry is faced with various challenges which affect it service delivery including amongst others:
Extension to farmers ratio which is currently 1: 2500, which makes difficult for extension workers to render effective extension services
Distances between farmers’ fields or farms, makes it difficult for extension workers to cover more farmers at a time.
With the collaboration from partner organization such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Deutsche Gesellscaft Fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and the Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Supporting Programme. MAWF can overcome some of the challenges.
What is the overall responsibility of the Directorate of Agriculture Production, Extension and Engineering Services?
To promote appropriate and improved agricultural technologies, practices and create a conducive environment for the private sector and other stakeholders to participate, for optimal and sustainable agricultural production through:
Provide Agricultural Services in the form of advisory, information dissemination and training
Identification of technology and training needs in all aspect of agricultural production.
Promotion the development, adaptation and adoption of appropriate technologies.
Promotion of Plant and Livestock production
Contribution to the implementation of agricultural related policies
Engaging in production and contribute to household and national food security.
Provision of Agriculture Engineering Services
Development and manage state owned agronomic projects.
Protection Namibia’s plant resources from agricultural pests and diseases
Provision of the registration of agricultural remedies, animal feeds, fertilizers, pet foods, and all associated establishment, pest control operators and sterilizing units in order to promote human, animal and plant.
Please give a brief about Conservation Agriculture in Namibia
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is founded on the need to improve soil conservation, reduce soil erosion and associated degradation in cropping systems while at the same time conserving resources and maintaining or enhancing crop yields.
Conservation Agriculture is characterized by three linked principles.1) minimum mechanical soil disturbance, 2) Permanent organic soil cover and 3) diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or associations.
The Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Programme (CCAP) was official launched in 2015, with the aim to manage agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity and food security while preserving and enhancing the resources base and environment.
The programme is implemented throughout the country and coordinated through the National Conservation Agriculture Forum which is supported by Regional Conservation Agriculture Foras.
During the 2017/2018 a total of 515 Lead farmers were capacitated in CA practices through trainings, workshops, demonstrations and field days. In addition, a total of 5000 farmers adapted at least one CA principles.
Conservation Agriculture (CA) practices and the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is aimed at creating resilience of farmers to varying climatic patterns and enhanced crop production.
CA is the complimentary programme to Dry Land Crop Production Programme for the country which is budgeted nationally.