Farming in Namibia
In Namibia, agriculture contributes ±5% of the national Gross Domestic product (this excludes fishing). Primary products include livestock and meat products, crop farming and forestry.
There are mainly two types of farming that we can look at, namely commercial farming and subsistence farming. A large percentage of Namibians (25% to 40%) depend on agricultural activities for livelihood, mostly in the subsistence sector. Subsistence farming is where the farmer only grows enough crops and owns enough livestock to feed himself and his family. In Namibia, it is mainly confined to the “communal lands” of the countries populous north, where roaming cattle are prevalent and the main crops are millet, sorghum, corn and peanuts. Commercial farming contributed between 5%-6% of Namibia’s GDP from 2004-2009 and animal products, livestock and crops exports constituted roughly 10.7% of total Namibian exports. There are about 4000 commercial farms in Namibia. Cattle grazing is predominant in the central and northern regions, while karakul sheep and goat farming are concentrated in the more arid southern regions. The government encourages local sourcing of agriculture products. Retailers of fruits, vegetables and other crop products must purchase 27.5% of their stock from local farmers. Table grapes, grown mostly along the Orange River in the country’s arid south, are becoming an increasingly important commercial crop and a significant employer of seasonal labor.
Only 2% of Namibia’s land receives sufficient rainfall too grow crops. All inland rivers are ephemeral, meaning they only flow following heavy rain, so irrigation is only possible in the valleys of the rivers that form the Namibian Boarders, namely at the Orange, Kunene, and Okavango rivers. The rain season starts in October and carries on till March or April. Rainfall for Windhoek measured a mere 197,0mm in 2015 whereas it is currently measuring 273,2mm for 2016. The Green Scheme Project, an initiative conducted by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Food , Mr John Mutorwa, has been designed to encourage development of irrigation along the maize triangle (Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Otavi), as well as in the north central and north eastern regions using the Kunene, Kavango and Zambezi rivers. It also serves to promote agro-projects in the South using the Orange River, and dams such as the Naute and Hardap Dams.
In a meeting held on 30 August 2016, the president of the Namibia Agricultural Union, Mr Ryno van der Merwe explained, to a hall full of people on the farm Neu-Otjisaouna, that the profitability of cattle and sheep farming is not close to what it should be. He explained that the expenses greatly outweigh the income made by this industry, and that the productivity of cattle and sheep farming has to increase by respectively 7.8% and 2.7% in order to break even.
Farming in Namibia faces a lot of challenges whether it be insufficient rainfall, land not being fruitful or the struggling economy. There are systems in place that can help with these challenges. If these resources are used responsibly, we should see Namibia’s agriculture sector bloom in the near future.