Nam farmers hold the fort … as Zim banks on agric, mining growth

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Namibia’s agriculture and forestry sector recorded 47,2 percent in real valued added during the second quarter of 2020, translating into a N$2,4 billion (approximately US$161 million) contribution to GDP after a 15 percent decline in the first three months of the year.

It was a real shot in the arm for an economy in which 13 out of 16 sectors recorded negative growth. 

The Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) says agriculture and forestry rebounded after good rains and planning in the 2019/20 summer season after registering a decline of 31,8 percent the previous year.

He sector is a key economic pillar, employing the majority of Namibians directly and indirectly, prompting Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Minister Calle Schlettwein to remark, “It is satisfying that the agriculture sector performance improved by growing 42,7 percent in the second quarter. It confirms that agriculture holds the best opportunities to revive the economy. Obviously this growth must be supported by public/private investments in agriculture.”

The Agriculture, Water and Forestry Ministry is banking on its Green Scheme and the National Horticulture Development Initiative (NHDI) to further boost the sector’s contribution to the national economy.

The Green Scheme fosters development of irrigation, with a target of about 27,000 hectares to be weaned off rain-fed agriculture near perennial rivers bordering Namibia. To date, around 9,000ha have been put under irrigation.

Under NHDI, the government aims to increase production and facilitate the marketing of fruits, vegetables, livestock fodder, and other related products. 

A key element of the NHDI is an import substitution programme dubbed Namibian Market Share Promotion (NMSP).  Under NMSP, importers must purchase a designated percentage of goods locally.

The government has established Fresh Produce Hubs in the northern regions of the country to further increase production while preserving freshness of produce.

The drive to boost local production and sourcing has seen horticulture growing by 52 percent between 2004 and 2010 (37,823 tonnes to 57,809 tonnes). The country has reached an import substitution level of over 22 percent, up from seven percent when the initiatives started.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube says the country is hinging its medium-term growth prospects on mining and agriculture.

“What is going to be key for us going forward is the domestication of value chains in agriculture and mining. By adding value to what we are producing we enhance our industrialisation agenda and the two sectors will provide the necessary inputs to our manufacturing sector,” he told local media.

This week, the Zimbabwe government launched a Horticulture Recovery Plan, which is part of a wider Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy (2020-2025).

The goal is to transform agriculture from a US$5,2 billion to a US$8,2 billion sector that contributes 20 percent of GDP in five years as part of the drive to make Zimbabwe an upper middle-income country by 2030.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the plan focused on two mutually reinforcing thrusts: private sector-driven recovery of conventional horticulture; and robust, inclusive, sustainable and transformative rural horticulture.

“While the conventional Horticulture Recovery Plan will require US$1,047,719,284 from the private sector and partners, the Presidential Horticulture Scheme will cost US$186,920,000 and cover 1,8 million rural households,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.

“The Presidential Horticulture Scheme will have the following components: household tree planting; village nutrition gardens; ward-based youth vegetable and horticulture gardens and orchards; schools’ vegetables and horticulture projects; mainstreaming indigenous vegetables and fruits; research, development and innovation in production, processing and value addition and beneficiation; and domestic and export market development”.

More than 25,000 boreholes will be sunk in villages and schools to climate-proof the Presidential Horticulture Scheme.

Reporting by Timo Shihepo in Windhoek & Tapson Dziva in Harare

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