Namibia banks on agricultural sector to boost economy, reduce poverty

Namibia’s potential for the agriculture sector must be unleashed to drive thousands out of poverty by achieving more inclusive growth and raising the share of agriculture in the gross domestic product (GDP), a government official said Wednesday.

Since the dissipating effects of the 2019 drought and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agricultural sector has demonstrated its resilience as one of the few sectors which sustained a positive growth trajectory, thus anchoring current and future economic recovery prospects, Namibia’s Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Calle Schlettwein said at an Agricultural Outlook Conference in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

“The current high-frequency data obtained from the second quarter GDP for 2022 indicate that the sector real output expanded by about 2 percent year-on-year, since the rebound by 6.3 percent in 2020,” he said.

According to Schlettwein, the return to a positive growth trajectory for the national economy sets the necessary condition for the country to realize per capita income gains and reduce poverty and unemployment through growth.

For the sector to increasingly deliver on this transformational agenda, a departure from business as usual is required and a more innovative and partnership approach is required to address the constraints and actively implement growth initiatives in agronomy, horticulture, livestock, and associated value chains within and across the sector, he said.

Schlettwein reckoned the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Northern Hemisphere geopolitical conflict bring forth the needed policy responsiveness for the new normal.

“This new normal predisposes a shift in the policy priority away from relying on trade for food security, towards food self-sufficiency. This policy priority requires much improved productive capacity in agriculture across all the value chains,” he said.

The 2022 Agricultural Outlook Conference is the first of its kind to have been jointly organized by all the farmers’ unions in the sector, namely, the Namibia National Farmers Union, Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers Union, the Previously Disadvantaged Namibian Farmers Union, and the Namibia Agricultural Union.

It was also held at an opportune time, as agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy and the main cropping season is approaching.

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