Aug 09

The Green Scheme Projects: Re-evaluate to Determine Best Possible Modalities in Namibia

By Josef Kefas Sheehama

The Namibia Agriculture Policy is the overarching policy and can serve as a base for aligning existing policies, laws, and regulations. The policy presents a framework for the design of programmes and projects that will steer the performance of the sector.

The Namibia Merchandise Trade Statistics Bulletin revealed that Namibia imported N$340.8 million worth of rice between June 2022 to June 2023. The trade imports are highlighting the market gaps that exist as the country progresses in producing its food, given the food insecurity faced by various communities. The green scheme programme encourages the development of irrigated production with approximately 27,000 hectares along the perennial rivers bordering Namibia and at strategic inland areas where water is abundant. Namibia has about Eleven (11) green scheme projects such as the Orange River, Hardap, Etunda, Musese, Sikondo, Uvungu-Vungu, Ndonga-Linena, Mashare, Shadikongoro, Kalimbeza, and Shitemo green scheme farms. The Zambezi and the two Kavango regions are by far the best options as hubs for food security in Namibia. This whole dependence on South Africa and other countries for everything, especially food is going to cost us a lot.

The 11 green schemes have been underfunded, leading to the projects screeching to a halt. The AgriBusDev, a custodian of the government green scheme under the agriculture ministry is mandated to keep these scheme projects sustainable and economically competitive. Therefore, the achievement of agricultural prosperity on which the nation depends is not the responsibility of the Government alone. Without the cooperation and participation of the farming community and the private sector as a whole, the Government’s agricultural development objectives cannot be achieved.

The Irrigation practice is vital to a successful green revolution to achieving sustainable development goals in food security, socio-economic and rural development.  However, irrigation practice in Namibia has not achieved the set goals despite the huge investment involved. The level of investment and abundant water resources ought to have expedited the goals of food self-sufficiency and socio-economic development in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform has undertaken to review the Green Schemes. The review  showed  that  the major persistent issues that have been hindering the performance of the green scheme to achieving the set goals were inconsistent  policies,  lack  of  political  commitment,  low  awareness  and  lack  of  technical  know-how among the managements who are responsible, and untimely financial intervention.  The lack of full time involvement by the top leaders who are responsible for these green schemes cost the government. The green schemes were underutilized and abandonment large-scale irrigation systems. Hence, to achieve food security and socio-economic development through green scheme practice in Namibia, there is need to provide proper policy framework, appropriate technology, and farmers’ awareness and their inclusion in the decision-making process. The green scheme practices are dormant as they facing challenge of poor management, lack of socio coordination, market problems and poor technical skill and knowledge of irrigation practices on user level.

Furthermore, despite these problems and challenges the opportunity to make the system sustainable can creates job and helps to improve the economic status of the people from agriculture sector. At a fair budget allocated for the agriculture sector about N$2.4 billion in FY2023/24, of the national budget. With the increase in population the food product are insufficient to fulfill the demand. So therefore the import trend is fondly rising up every year. The import cost for rice is maximum at the year 2022/2023. The import trend showed alarming situation for the national economy. So only sustainable irrigation practices can boost up agriculture productivity and minimizes the import cost. The Kalimbeza Rice Project in the Zambezi Region remains dormant due to a lack of funds. The project having been bailed out in 2020 when the Ministry of Agriculture spent N$7.1 million to keep it running. Various publications revealed that AGIBUSDEV allegedly failed to manage the project, forcing the government to take over the Green Scheme that was supposed to have happened before the end of 2022.

The Kalimbeza Rice Project before operation stoppage produced three rice varieties of Supa, Irga and Angola. It is regrettable that the Kalimbeza is without normal production on the 229 hectares of land in Kabbe North Constituency. Therefore, investment  in  green scheme re-evaluate  should  not  be  an issue  of  debate  but  rather  on  how  to  improve  the performances  of  various  irrigation  schemes  across  the country  by  addressing  the  various  challenges encountered. Generally, the government is now aware of the significant role of irrigation development and its efficient utilization of food security and economic growth.

Moreover, as is widely accepted, if Namibia is to witness sustainable green schemes resuscitate and poverty reduction it will need to learn from other countries such as China, the United States, and India whilst in Africa we can learn from Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and South Africa amongst others. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform should recognize the importance of flexibility in the timing and design of reform processes to achieve practical and effective policy changes. Governments should prepare future reforms, via continued research, education, and governance efforts, to help take advantage of reform opportunities when the timing is right. Additionally, there is light at the end of the tunnel as Namibia Training Authority encouraged the National Policy on Work-integrated Learning for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). In order to meet this challenge, the agricultural sector in Namibia needs serious reforms and an increase in public investments in agriculture. To reach these goals the development of skills and knowledge plays a key important cross-cutting and value-adding strategy.

On the basis of a review and revaluation activities of Green Scheme irrigated agriculture projects in these regions, the general situation appears to be that monitoring and evaluation are having far less impact on the management process than expected or even possible. One of the main reasons for this sad state of affairs is that monitoring and evaluation are being imposed from Senior Managers who are based in Windhoek to the farm managers.

In conclusion, this requires a great deal of courage to stay the course in the face of setbacks and to make decisions that may be unpopular with short-term-oriented stakeholders. Effective partnerships between the government and private sector in critical areas of infrastructure and long-term investments would expedite development.

Therefore, faced with this difficult task, the easy option for policymakers would be to maintain the status quo. But better policies for green schemes hold tremendous promise for meeting the challenge of food security and nutrition, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability.