The Governor of the Bank Of Namibia, Johannes !Gawaxab, says diversification is key in the agricultural sector in order to transform the rural economy and make it more profitable.
The Governor said farmers should shift from subsistence farming to increase productivity.
According to !Gawaxab, agriculture plays an important role in the rural economy with about 70% of the population depending on the sector for employment opportunities and food security.
He said agriculture is an important aspect to consider when speaking about changing the rural economy of Namibia.
“Diversification involves developments in technology, the provision of better infrastructure, and well-functioning agricultural markets to support more diversified production,” he said on Thursday.
“To revive and transform the rural economy, we must make agriculture a business, where agri-preneurs are grown and nurtured, indeed a wealth-creating sector. To be clear, agriculture is not a development sector. Agriculture is a business.”
!Gawaxab further emphasised the importance of irrigation schemes such as green schemes, in the transformation of the agricultural sector and their role in ensuring food security.
He also highlighted the need to focus and invest in rural infrastructure such as irrigation systems, storage facilities, and transportation networks.
“Equally, it is important to ensure access to finance and technical support to enable the adoption of modern and sustainable farming techniques. We must leverage innovation and technologies. It should not be a far-fetched dream for agriculture to use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology to enable more profitable, efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly practices and methods,” he said.
The country has been in a persistent drought for the past 10 years and the Namibia Drought Assessment Report of 2022 estimates that about 750,000 Namibians are food insecure.
“This is extremely worrisome, and if we do not put measures in place to remedy the situation, we might have a national crisis on our hands. For this reason, climate-resilient practices in the agricultural sector should be prioritised now more than ever,” he said
The Governor also iterated the need for Namibia to reduce dependence on imported food and products in order to not only transform the rural economy but to also create an opportunity for the unskilled part of the unemployed population to gain employment.
“This is a simple goal we can achieve by replacing imports with products made or grown in our own country. Collectively, these measures, I believe, have the potential to increase Namibia’s value addition, economic diversification, and self-sustenance, which in turn translates into economic growth,” he said.
Namibia’s rural economy is mainly characterised by agriculture. However, it faces growing competition from the urban areas for labour, land and water. The agricultural sector is, therefore, constrained and underperforming, with only a 5% contribution to the GDP.
In 2018, a total of 167,242 jobs were in agriculture during 2018, with a considerable number of those being in rural parts of Namibia. 87.6% of those jobs were informal.