Namibia: Farm Like White People, Nujoma Urges

Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma.

Land reform minister Utoni Nujoma says farmers resettled on commercial farms have themselves to blame for the hardships they face with regards to drought, as they do not manage their grazing land the way "the white people" do.

Nujoma said white farmers do proper management of their livestock to avoid overgrazing, something which he said the resettled farmers have failed to do, hence their situation in the face of the drought.

Nujoma made these remarks on Friday during a meeting at Swakopmund with drought-affected farmers who were represented by the Zeraeua Traditional Authority.

The minister told the meeting, which was also attended by president Hage Geingob and other senior government officials, that white farmers fence off their land, and do not overgraze it.

He stated that pleas from the government to resettled farmers to adopt a new way of farming have fallen on deaf ears.

"They do not listen to what we are telling them, and now the land is desert. Let's farm the modern way, not the traditional way," he stressed.

Nujoma was reacting to calls from the Zeraeua Traditional Authority to open up some resettlement farms to communal farmers, who are hit hard by the drought.

The traditional authority proposed to Geingob to halt the pending resettlement of farmers during the height of the current drought, and to open the resettlement farms for drought-stricken farmers' cattle to graze on.

Chief Mannase Zeraeua, speaking on behalf of the traditional authority, said the farmers would even sign agreements to vacate these farms when grazing in their areas of origin is restored. He emphasised the need for the government to continue buying farms adjacent to communal areas to "extend these areas, and alleviate pressure on communal land".

Nujoma, however, dismissed the idea, asking "why?".

He said opening up the farms could turn them into instant 'deserts.'

"If we extend into the adjacent farms and not properly manage the resource at our disposal, we will just be extending the desert. There must be a proper way of managing, otherwise we turn the whole country into desert, and this is counterproductive," he reiterated.

Nujoma also lashed out at some communities who have the "bedevilling mentality of entitlement".

"There are certain communities who think they can force the government. They must abandon that mentality. The government is here to build One Namibia, One Nation," he continued.

Zeraeua also used the opportunity to call on Geingob to put a moratorium on resettlement and the selling of farms to foreigners to allow for the ongoing commission of inquiry into ancestral land claims and restitution to complete its work.

The commission is tasked with studying and identifying communities who lost ancestral land, and to establish the size of the land lost, and its boundaries, amongst other things.

It is also expected to look into the possibility of establishing alternative measures to restore social justice, and to ensure the economic empowerment of affected communities.

Zeraeua said had the resettlement process been done "properly and fairly", the "clamouring for ancestral land" would not have been so severe as the current resettlement programme is not adapted to the plight of those who lost land.

Since the resettlement programme was introduced nearly 20 years ago, 29 farms translating into 227 000 hectares were bought in Erongo by the government for N$166 million.

This has become home to 92 families.

According to Erongo governor Cleophas Mutjavikua, only 10 of the 92 families resettled on Erongo farms are from Erongo.

"This means [the resettlement project] did not yet alleviate the plight of the small communal areas in the region," he told the meeting.

Farmers from Omatjete had earlier complained that beneficiaries of resettlement farms around Omatjete are mainly from outside the region.

Omatjete is in the Daures constituency, which is also the base of the Zeraeua Traditional Authority.

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