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Feature: Namibia’s Resettlement Program Provides Sweet Relief for Small-Scale Farmers

At resettlement Farm Rustig in Namibia’s Kunene Region, local farmer Arnold Gaeseb’s face beamed with joy as cattle bellows echoed through the air between grazing in enclosures. This was a godsend for the farmer once thwarted by a lack of access to suitable farming land.

Gaeseb is one of the beneficiaries of the Namibian government’s land resettlement program aimed at improving citizens’ socioeconomic prospects. Since acquiring the resettlement farm of 2,800 hectares in 2019, Gaeseb explored ways to realize his dream of a farming enterprise. He implemented rotational grazing systems, set up boreholes for water supply, and created camps on the land as a disease control measure, which led to better results. His cattle herd has grown from 50 in the past to 180 at present.

“Accessing suitable agricultural land and hard work brought this transformation. With improved quality livestock, I sell at local auctions and markets for a favorable price,” Gaeseb said.

Before resettlement, his livestock shared limited grazing on communal land, resulting in overcrowding and constant struggles for survival due to drought. The semi-arid southern African nation, with a population of 2.53, experienced persistent drought conditions for more than seven years, according to the 2022 Namibia Drought Assessment Report.

“My animals were malnourished and vulnerable to diseases as I could not control movement. This led to a decline in livestock numbers, making it difficult to sell,” Gaeseb said Monday.

Through the resettlement program, the State acquires commercial land in the freehold sector on a willing-seller-willing-buyer basis and redistributes it to previously disadvantaged Namibians.

Jona Musheko, the senior public relations officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform, said the program aims to address land inequality and rectify past colonial injustices. Locals are allocated land on a lease basis for 99 years.

“The resettlement entails voluntary movement of beneficiaries from an area with marginal agricultural conditions and poor infrastructure to an area designated by the government, where it provides better land and social amenities,” Musheko said.

As of July 2023, the government has acquired 3.5 million hectares of freehold agricultural land at 2.5 billion Namibian dollars (about 168 million U.S. dollars), which have been allocated to 5,480 beneficiaries.

More locals found sweet relief in the program. Benjamin Kondjeni, 29, was resettled from Okalongo, Omusati region, to a 3,840-hectare Farm Patton in Kunene region in 2021. The resettlement was far from what he expected. He, however, soon found a vision to toil the land and bet on agricultural entrepreneurship.

“I brought a herd of small and large livestock. I have since diversified to include horticulture and charcoal productions sold to local factories to meet local energy sector demands. Being resettled here has made life more worthy,” Kondjeni said.

Since 2016, Uepeua Ueitele, who was relocated to the 2,600-hectare Farm Bospoor in the Omaheke region, has embarked on farming activities, including firewood and livestock. Today, she hopes to change the face of the agricultural business. “I am not the first woman to venture into commercial farming, but I found a purpose to demonstrate through success that women can make business out of agriculture. Women were previously left out, and could not own land in a patriarchal society,” she said.

The farmers also see the resettlement program as an opportunity to contribute to food security and reduce poverty. According to the 2023/2024 Livelihood Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis by the Office of the Prime Minister, about 579,000 people in the country may have faced high levels of acute food insecurity between July and September 2023.

Meanwhile, the resettlement has brought much-needed relief to the locals, but they still face challenges such as a shortage of startup capital and funds to expand, a lack of machinery, and access to training, the rudimentary requirement of success.

To address knowledge gaps, the Ministry’s agricultural extension officers provide support to farmers on sustainable farming practices, according to Musheko with the Ministry of Agriculture.

In the interim, undeterred, the farmers persevere and explore new techniques to improve productivity.

“The bigger vision is to create employment opportunities, mentor aspiring farmers, and become a beacon of hope for the local community,” said Gaeseb, the local farmer.

Source : English News