31 January 2013

Namibia: Crop Programme Still Needs Tweaking

The government's Rain Fed Crop Production Programme (RFCP), formerly known as the Dry Land Crop Production Programme, still requires a lot of attention and many additional improvements, according to the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa.

According to Mutorwa, the current three hectares set aside for the programme are insufficient, particularly for those identified hard-working crop farmers in the crop producing communal areas. As a result, the ministry envisages increasing the plot sizes for subsistence farmers who will be subsidised.

The RFCP targets rural households in the communal areas of the Caprivi, Kavango, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Omusati, Oshana, and the northern parts of the Kunene Region, who are primarily engaged in dry land crop production.

The government realises there is considerable potential to increase crop yields for rain-fed agriculture by combining mechanised agriculture with proven, Namibia-specific, conservation agriculture (CA) practices.

As a result, the agriculture ministry has taken a step to introduce tractors drawing rippers/furrows, planters and fertilizer-applicators that would lessen farmers' dependency on manual labour, which has become a concern due to various factors including the impact of HIV/AIDS and migration.

Under the programme, government makes provision for ploughing, planting and fertiliser application services to beneficiaries through government-owned tractors and the hiring of ploughing services through private tractor owners.

A maximum of three hectares are ploughed at a subsidised rate shared between government and the beneficiary, which the ministry is now considering to increase to between four and five hectares. Other benefits under the programme are the provision of weeding services, improved seeds to beneficiaries and the provision of fertilisers at subsidised rates shared between the beneficiary and government.

Mutorwa further instructed the directorates of extension and engineering services, as well as researchers to work out a programme whereby organic fertilisers such as kraal manure can be procured by the agriculture ministry from farmers, in addition to the imported and expensive chemical, or non-organic fertilisers.

He said a pilot study should be done at least by the end of June 2013, to see how feasible such a programme would be. "This programme could become popular. In some areas, cattle are more on the road than in the kraal. This initiative might force people to keep animals in their kraals and make money out of the manure," Mutorwa said.

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