1 June 2012

Namibia: Resettled Farmers Can Turn Commercial

THE Ministry of Lands and Resettlement plans to cease its resettlement programme by 2020 and will in the meantime strive to reach its target of acquiring 15 million hectares of freehold land for redistribution over the next eight years.

Out of this total, five million hectares will be acquired through the National Resettlement Programme, while 10 million hectares will be acquired through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme.

"The land reform programme is on course and since its inception the ministry has acquired 2 253 million hectares of commercial agricultural land and resettled 4 893 families," the ministry's spokesperson, Chrispin Matongela, told The Namibian.

To complement these efforts the ministry further continues to provide post-settlement support to resettlement beneficiaries.

This includes the development and rehabilitation of water infrastructure on resettlement farms.

"In the 2011/2012 financial year alone, an amount of N$21 million was spent for that purpose in order to facilitate unhindered farming activities," Matongela said.

The ministry, in partnership with Agribank, will also continue to offer a financial package worth N$20 million a year at subsidised interest rates to resettled farmers. Since its inception, 475 resettled farmers have benefited from this loan facility.

Another project for previously disadvantaged farmers and resettled farmers on commercial farmlands is the farmers' support programme.

According to Matongela the ministry has observed a change in farming methods and appreciation of farming as a business. At least 20 mentors are currently employed in commercial areas and a total of 524 resettlement farmers were trained.

"The land reform process in Namibia is not only to correct the imbalances of the past in terms of land ownership but to address other socio-economic and political realities within our communities. Apart from the acquisition of freehold land, the ministry under the usage programme is engaged in development of small-scale commercial farms in the Caprivi, Kavango, Otjozondjupa, Omaheke,Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions."

In August last year, the ministry undertook a poverty impact assessment of the various land reform programmes and it revealed that between 1992 and 2010, Agribank financed 836 farm purchases, of which 604 (72%) were purchased under the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS).

Matongela said over time, this had the effect of raising the market value of land above its productive value, thereby threatening the economic viability of start-up farming enterprises.

"As a direct result of this imbalance, a significant number (40%) of farms were facing serious economic problems. The information gathered shows that farmers had to sell valuable breeding stock to service their loans. However, the majority of AALS farmers (60%) succeeded in developing their farming enterprises over the years and expanding their herds."

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