Namibia: Less Agriculture Investment Poses Grave Challenges - Schlettwein

Public and private investment into Namibia's agricultural sector has been on the decline.

It has dropped from an average of 4,6% 10 years ago to 3,6% in 2019.

This was revealed by Calle Schlettwein, the minister of agriculture, water and land reform, in his budget speech last month regarding the government's N$1,26 billion allocation to the ministry.

He said the decline in his ministry's budget, which continues in the 2021/22 financial year, is "posing significant challenges to the ministry's ability to bring the agricultural sector to its full potential".

After the construction of the Neckartal Dam the agriculture ministry's budget allocation has seen a significant decrease.

In 2018/19 public investment stood at N$1,9 billion, while in 2020 and 2021 N$1,33 billion and N$1,25 billion were invested, respectively.

For the next two years the government will not be increasing its investment in agriculture beyond two billion, with N$1,485 billion and N$1,492 billion to be furnished, respectively.

"For the agriculture and land sectors to play their central roles of ensuring food security, access to the means of production by all, and reigniting the country's economic growth, allocations to the sector need to be improved," Schlettwein said.

Of the total N$1,26 billion allocated to the ministry, some N$392,42 million, or 31%, is allocated to development projects in the agriculture and land reform sectors.

The rest will be spent on salaries and other operational expenditure.

This means the ministry has access to N$392,43 million to increase the sector's output, and to acquire farms for the current financial year.

Some N$465,26 million is allocated to the ministry's water sector.

Ironically, the agriculture sector supports the livelihoods of 70% of the Namibian population, the minister revealed.

He emphasised that the agriculture sector is the biggest employer in the country, with 167 242 individuals, of which 90 076 are men and 77 166 are women.

This amounts to 15,3% of the total Namibian workforce, according to the 'Namibia Labour Force, 2018' review.

The ministry's budget is also met with two calamities: foot-and-mouth disease in the northern regions, and the locust invasion in the far-eastern to western areas.

As a result, some of the agriculture ministry's funds were reallocated to emergency interventions.

Schlettwein highlighted various projects the ministry is undertaking, such as a programme improving livestock production, which is aimed at the improvement of animal health countrywide, including a marketing scheme in the northern communal areas.

This programme is allocated an amount of N$96,23 million, which translates to 25% of the estimated total programme cost of N$381,15 million.

The estimated budget for this project is almost equivalent to the total amount allocated to the ministry as a whole for development projects.

Crop and horticulture production is aimed at maximising irrigation opportunities - especially with regards to existing green schemes, poultry and dairy value-chain development.

An amount of N$143,17 million is allocated to this, which includes the Namibia Agricultural Mechanisation and Seed Improvement Project, for which N$53 million was budgeted.

Another project the ministry is undertaking this year is the acquisition of land for resettlement purposes, and the rehabilitation of infrastructure on resettlement farms.

An amount of N$119,72 million is allocated to this endeavour.

The ministry is also embarking on the establishment of cold storage facilities and the provision of subsidised inputs and services to horticultural producers.

Kalimbeza project is also back in the limelight.

Last year, N$3,8 million was made available to Agribusdev for the procurement of works and the commencement of the installation of the 450 kW (kilowatt) solar plant at Kalimbeza.

For the 2021/22 year, N$1,8 million is made available for the management of the construction of a 450 kWp (kilowatts peak) solar plant at the Kalimbeza rice project.

However, no mention was made of plans for utilising the Neckartal Dam, but the project was referred to as one of the ministry's achievements.

During the 2020/21 financial year, Namibia experienced a second locust invasion.

This is expected to reduce the crop yields per hectare for northern subsistence farmers, and to reduce food security for the coming year, as well as farmers' income.

The crop sector was the star of the economy last year, recording growth of 76,5% in real value added in 2020.

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