THE Namibia National Farmers Union says many communal farmers in the country are still poor because they do not own the land on which they live.
NNFU president Jason Emvula made these remarks on Tuesday at the Silumbi Combined School during the launch of the union's membership drive to register farmers so that they can be easily identifiable.
"Many of us do not have secured rights over the land, the water, and the forest we live on. This is aggravated by growing large-scale land acquisitions for conservation purposes at the expense of farmers," he stated.
He said besides not owning the land, communal farmers face many other challenges which the union hopes to tackle through organised agriculture, whereby farmers should combine forces to achieve greater things.
"Good seeds are not readily available and affordable, and that is beginning to be out of our control. We do not have the capital for inputs and tools, and find it hard to get credit and loans for the high input costs.
"Sometimes, we find it difficult to sell in the market because of bad roads, or to know where the market is because of poor market information, or to command good prices for our produce because it is of lower quality, or the market has too much of it already," he said.
Emvula further stressed that organised agriculture is the driving force towards industrialisation, and if implemented properly, it will help Namibia achieve Vision 2030 goals.
"We ought to appreciate that we cannot be industrialised without the push of organised agriculture, with farmers organised in different groups of value chain development as the basis of food security and meaningful self-reliance. A nation that cannot feed itself cannot be successful.
"With a strong agricultural sector, we stand a better chance to do greater things", he added.
He cited a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report that development and stability are faster where organised agriculture is recognised and the nation's farmers have a voice in planning the overall national economy.
"Food security is an essential ingredient of and necessary condition for sustainable economic development, peace and stability. It is when people, ordinary families, have food that they defend democracy," he noted.
Emvula urged farmers to join the NNFU so that it would be easier for them as a union to carry out their tasks, such as lobbying for policy reforms aimed at levelling the field in all agricultural matters, with particular reference to agricultural financing, productivity, market access and a favourable agricultural policy environment.
NNFU executive director Mwilima Mushokabanji told the same audience that the agricultural sector is transforming, and they have therefore realised that as much as they have policies and legislative instruments which direct the agricultural sector, the one element in the agricultural system that they never paid attention to is agricultural value chains.
"Registering communal farmers makes agricultural governance much easier in providing services. This process will allow us to make our farmers to know what they are farming with, and what challenges they are facing. Organised agriculture is the key to economic development. Agriculture remains the engine of the Namibian economy, and that engine can only function if farmers are organised," he stressed.