Rundu — With Namibia yet to unlock its economic potential in communal areas, a senior government minister last week confirmed "there is potential for investment in the country's communal areas".
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa encouraged local commercial banks and AgriBank, whose mandate is to fund agro-projects, to assist farmers wanting to invest in communal areas.
"We must work out a scheme to assist such farmers otherwise the country will continue to be behind (development)," said the agriculture, water and forestry minister.
Meanwhile, the Vice-Chairperson of the Kavango Regional Farmers Union Oiva Mahina said there is a serious need to draw up policies to address the situation.
"Many people in the communal areas have the skills and technical abilities to be farmers, but due to the lack of funds and banks not willing to finance them, they are left behind," he said.
Mahina said farming units and business erven in communal areas should be conferred '"commercial" status due to the money pumped in to develop the areas.
"In many cases you find that people develop their land, but this cannot be turned into capital due to their location," said Mahina.
Perhaps government should initiate a fund to assist people who have farming potential but do not have the required capital, said Mahina.
Agreeing with the minister's sentiments, Rundu businessman Tulio Van der Merwe Parreira said commercial banks are not helping farmers in communal areas.
"These commercial banks are not there to help us, especially when compared to the all the benefits the white farmers enjoy on commercial farms," he charged.
"As the private sector we are trying very hard to assist government with the development of the country, but the banks do not want to take risks to finance farmers in communal areas," he said.
Formal and large-scale institutions still view farmers in communal areas as high-risk borrowers despite the economic potential of communal areas.
In 2011, Bank of Namibia Governor Ipumbu Shiimi said there is a need for land reform to make land rights in communal areas fully tradable like other properties across the country.
"Our people in communal areas have no land rights that are equal in status to those of their fellow citiznes in the rest of the country. As a result, they lack the opportunities to turn their land into productive capital," said Ipumbu at the time.
Be it freehold or leasehold, the governor considers security and tradability as imperative.