By Elezo Libanda
Katima Mulilo, 8 July – The Zambezi region has the potential to become Namibia’s breadbasket once again, but local farmers face significant challenges hindering their efforts to regain its former glory. Blessed with fertile land, ample underground water reserves, and the Zambezi River, which is home to the Zambezi bream, the region is well-suited for agricultural production. However, the lack of support for mass production and the absence of green scheme farms remain major hurdles.
Farmers in Zambezi are eager to contribute commercially to the agricultural sector, but without adequate financial support, their ambitions remain unfulfilled. Despite possessing some of the most fertile land in the country, it remains largely undeveloped, leading to criticism of the region’s political leadership for their failure to secure funds for agricultural development. Meanwhile, the region continues to rely on imports from Zambia for vegetables and other fresh produce, despite having the resources to cultivate these goods locally.
Josephine, a street vendor in the area, expressed her frustration, stating that she predominantly sources her fresh vegetables from Zambia. Procuring supplies involves considerable paperwork and often results in delays of weeks or even months. In some cases, Josephine has to travel to distant locations such as Otavi or Tsumeb to purchase cabbages, incurring high transportation costs. She added that the few individuals who engage in small-scale gardening, particularly in the Lisikili area, face challenges due to low supply and high demand, resulting in increased prices.
Critics have accused the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform of neglecting the agricultural potential of the Zambezi region. Many argue that the ministry has overlooked the region’s development, despite its high unemployment rate. Establishing green schemes in Zambezi could have offered employment opportunities, especially for youth and women. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of food security, as the closure of borders disrupted the importation of fresh produce, significantly impacting the country.
It is crucial that farmers in Zambezi receive the necessary support to develop their agricultural enterprises. Without such assistance, Namibia will continue to rely on importing basic necessities like vegetables. The nation must prioritize food security, as demonstrated by the lessons learned during the pandemic. The Zambezi region’s agricultural potential is waiting to be unlocked, offering a path towards self-sufficiency and prosperity for all.- Namibia Daily News