15 January 2013

Namibia: Govt Must Design Policies for Poor Farmers

The Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU) is urging farmers to implement mitigation plans in case of a possible drought this year.

Even though the weather forecast for this season is above normal rainfall in all the regions, there are fears that rainfall in some regions could be below the forecast levels. Meanwhile, the executive director of the union, Oloff Munjanu, has called on farmers to start improving their planning and organizing, and to introduce better record-keeping as part of their farming activities.

"This is our weakness as communal farmers. Even those that are well-off today cannot show on record how they have arrived where they are today," Munjanu said in a New Year statement to farmers.

Munjanu further advised farmers to become risk takers by taking out loans. He however cautioned against taking out unmeasured financial risks that could become burdensome.

"Only take what you can afford. Take small and come back again. Build financial credibility," he advised farmers. Farmers are urged to participate in farming activities such as joining farmers' associations, unions, water point committees, conservancies, cooperatives, as well as projects and initiatives by the government and non-governmental organisations.

He said the NNFU wants women and young people to feature more prominently in farming, adding that farming is not an exclusive preserve for males.

In addition the union called on so-called weekend farmers to form clubs or discussion forums in towns and cities and to increase their participation at all available agricultural forums.

Munjanu also reminded farmers of their right to demand local government services.

"It is your right to complain and demand and request information and enquire from councillors, extension officers, governors and any other department," he added. Munjanu noted that the current prices at auctions are poor, but urged farmers to organise themselves and do something about it.

"Explore direct marketing options, such as the Meatco Saam Laai Program. Try to lease government auction kraals to control auction dates and get commission as income," he advised.

The NNFU is a national federation of regional farmers' unions, established to serve as a mouthpiece for Namibian communal and emerging farmers.

It aims to increase food production for household security, to enhance marketing of farming products to increase household incomes, increase participation and recognition of women in farming, and to contribute to environmental protection and the sustainable utilisation of natural resources.

Munjanu bemoaned the fact that government does not create policies that exempt the poor from burdensome regulations, taxes and other requirements, neither does it design poor-specific policies. He said all government policies are all-inclusive, irrespective of one's social or economic status, whereby all farmers have to comply with certain standards and requirements, such as the European Union traceability and market requirements, ear tags, hygiene and health or animal welfare imperatives.

"There are no specific doors and windows for the poor, such as minimum wages. Government claims to be pro-poor when tabling the budget, but policies and programmes are not poor friendly," Munjanu said.

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