23 June 2006

Namibia: New Plan for Land Reform

With the willing-buyer, willing-seller policy on land reform not delivering the desired results, Namibia's biggest farmers' unions, the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) and the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), are looking at new ways to address the unequal distribution of agricultural land.

The two unions briefed President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Wednesday that they are studying a new concept where new farmers buy shares in a productive farm rather than buying the entire farm.

The president of the NNFU, Manfred Rukoro, and his counterpart, Rainer von Hase, of NAU, said the initiative would not replace the willing-buyer, willing-seller concept, but will run parallel in order to speed up the land reform process.

Rukoro noted that the current situation has only a 'buy out and buy in effect' and no concept of sharing.

"With the current situation, the agricultural sector losses experience and expertise when the new farmer buys out the old farmer".

The NNFU president said in many instances agricultural land that was once productive, becomes unproductive because the new farmer lacks the financial start-up capital as well as the skills to run the commercial entity and the country's economy suffers in the process.

"Some commercial farms, which have been successful in terms of production, have sadly degraded to zero".

Rukoro added that other advantages of the new initiative were that it would be cheaper for new farmers to get into commercial farming business.

"Whereas the new farmer will need millions to buy the entire farm, a new farmer will need less to buy shares in a profitable farm".

He added the productivity of the agricultural land will be maintained and the new farmer can gain expertise and experience from his partner.

The two unions' presidents revealed that they would be going to South Africa from July 23 to 29 to study the concept that is believed to be successfully implemented there.

"We understand that the model is being applied in South Africa with some positive results and we will like to learn from them", said Von Hase.

He added that the two unions have invited representatives from line ministries such as the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement and Agriculture as well as AgriBank for the visit to South Africa. Rukoro added that the concept has successfully been applied mainly on wine farms in South Africa and is currently being tested with cattle farming.

However, Rukoro warned that this new concept could only work if the white commercial farmers are genuine about the concept of sharing.

"We have witnessed in the past where our partners were not genuine and overpriced farms and are generally reluctant to sell some of the land".

He warned that he hopes commercial farmers who are trying to avoid land redistribution would not misuse the new concept.

"I hope and think the concept will be done in good spirit by all parties to avoid the negative effects the slow land distribution can cause". He added that everybody should look at solutions to overcome land hunger.

The two union presidents also said that they are

looking at ultimately forming one union for all the farmers in Namibia. They added that they are currently looking at closer working relations between the two unions.

"We are like sister unions and since both of us took office our co-operation has intensified".

They noted that more research is needed for the concept to become a reality.

The two presidents also announced that they are looking at a three-year training programme for emerging farmers, which will be conducted in all thirteen regions. The envisaged programme will cost the unions close to N$15 million over the three years and Von Hase said that they had requested funding from the National Planning Commission (NPC).

The NAU has close to 2000 members, mainly white commercial farmers, while the NNFU has over 4000 mainly communal members.


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