24 July 2003

Namibia: Water the Problem, Not Land, Says Smit

Windhoek — DEPUTY Minister of Agriculture Paul Smit has called on agricultural producers to employ more stringent water usage methods to ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of the industry.

Addressing members of the horticultural industry in Windhoek yesterday, Smit said a scarcity of water rather than a shortage of land was hampering the growth of the agricultural industry.

The gathering of local producers and other industry players will discuss a new marketing strategy - the 'Green Scheme' - which seeks to increase local food production and decrease dependency on imports.

In recent months local farmers have increased import substitution from 10 to 14 per cent, but the Namibia Agronomic Board says more needs to be done to produce the country's required food crops.

The Green Scheme, which was drawn up by consultants, also suggests marketing ploys for products locally and internationally.

Calling for more responsibility on the part of producers, Smit said he would not like to see Government having to implement policies to regulate their water usage.

He said flood and sprinkle irrigation using underground resources and surface dams should be scrapped.

Smit stressed the role agriculture needs to play in the realisation of the country's development plan, Vision 2030.

"What we need to do is build a strong middle class and not a system where the rich become richer and the poor, poorer".

He said the sector has to strike a balance between protecting farmers and protecting consumers, so that the nation can be fed and clothed at affordable prices.

While Government will continue to assist in developing bulk infrastructure such as dams and pipelines, Smit says it is up to the private sector to conduct on-land training and come up with ploys to market their produce better.

In recent months the National Horticulture Task Team has feverishly worked on increasing information among producers about the industry's current production levels and the goals it needs to reach through various electronic databases accessible at several of the main towns throughout the country.

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