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August 09, 2010

Namibian farmland under-utilized

Although Namibia has only about one percent of arable land, the line ministry says its agricultural potential is currently under-utilised.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry wants to put 30 000 to 37 000 hectares of land under irrigation.

Of the 30 000 ha, only about 10 000 ha are currently under irrigation, said the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Anna Shiwedha.

“Projects currently under irrigation are not fully utilised, especially in the Kavango Region. We have a 1 000-hectare project, but only 500-600 ha are utilised. There is also land in Caprivi which has not yet been utilised. We are looking at that land, but we have to consult with traditional authorities,” Shiwedha said.

She said there is serious need for negotiations with the traditional authorities, as people who are currently living on that land have to be moved.

“We want to call in the people and say there is land, we have the water, you can make business here. There is still room for expansion, we have land in the country, especially along the rivers,” Shiwedha said in an attempt to woo potential investors to the upcoming agricultural investment conference.

The conference’s objective is to bring together farmers, traders in agricultural products, policymakers, manufacturers of technology and agricultural inputs and financing agencies, with a view to attract investment in the sector.

The investment conference will take place from September 15 to 17 in the capital.

According to Shiwedha, Government is the biggest investor in agriculture and has been, for the past five years on a drive to increase agricultural production.

It is believed that the agricultural sector is not performing at the pace at which it did before. There are indications that tourism has surpassed agriculture with regard to GDP contribution during recent years.

However, the deputy permanent secretary is adamant that agriculture has not declined, but is still on the same level, as it is still the biggest employer in the country. A lot of farmers have begun to diversify their farming activities by going into tourism activities, such as lodges and hunting farms.

“The private sector is there, but they are diversifying just because apparently agriculture is not profitable,” she noted.

Shiwedha said there is definitely an opportunity with regard to agricultural business, noting that the conference will focus on  the whole agricultural production chain.

The 30 000 hectares do not include under-utilised virgin land in communal areas. However, the virgin land seems to be more suitable for other farming types and not necessarily irrigation.

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