The Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform is expected to launch a revised national resettlement policy that prioritises underprivileged communities, including generational farmworkers.
The Cabinet has approved a revised policy that covers 2023 to 2033, replacing the 1991 to 2001 national resettlement policy.
The director of resettlement and regional programme implementations, Alfred Sikopo, says one of the changes in the new policy relates to the allocation of farms.
“We normally have a lot of issues with regards to marginalised communities, generational farmworkers, people who are found in corridors and other vulnerable people,” Sikopo says.
“In the past, when we advertised the farm, everyone competed for the farm . . . “ he says.
The government has created three different resettlement models for the new policy: the high-value, medium-value and low-value economic models.
“These were created to resolve that challenge,” Sikopo says.
He says the new resettlement policy includes a freehold provision according to which beneficiaries can purchase their allocated farms from the government.
“Farmers will be placed on probation, maybe for 10 years. So if you’re doing well during the probation period, you would be allowed to buy that particular farm,” he says.
Sikopo says this is meant to promote productivity on resettlement farms and land tenure security, which farmers can use to access funding.
He says commercial banks are reluctant to provide resettlement farmers with loans as the land remains government property.
The abolition of the subletting of resettlement farms is another major change in the new policy.
“Subletting will not be allowed once this policy is implemented,” he says.
The new policy also makes provision for support packages for resettlement farmers.
Sikopo says farmers will be provided with training.
The ministry has also created a new unit under the Department of Water Supply that will provide farmers with support.
Agribank and other stakeholders will also be given the mandate to ensure farmers are productive, he says.
Sikopo says the ministry will engage Agribank, which currently gives a once-off, collateral-free loan up to N$200 000.
He says this needs to be strengthened so that farmers are supported with loans to develop their farms.
Agribank spokesperson Filemon Nangonya says the bank has a long-standing agreement with the ministry of agriculture to give theoretical and practical pre-resettlement training to all resettlement recipients.
“The objective is to enhance the capacity of farmers to succeed in their farming endeavours,” he says.
The government has invested N$2,4 billion in its land reform programme, acquiring 571 commercial farms, totalling 3,4 million hectares.
So far, Sikopo says 5 480 previously disadvantaged Namibians have been resettled.
However, the majority of farmers are faced with a myriad of challenges, including water scarcity, a lack of training, limited farming equipment, limited land due to bush encroachment, and a lack of sufficient funding.
Some of these challenges were discovered during an oversight visit to resettlement farms in the Otjozondjupa region by the parliamentary standing committee on natural resources a week ago.
Committee member Jan-Johannes van Wyk said farmers have limited access to capital, among other issues.
“These farmers only have access to N$200 000 through Agribank. And once that money is depleted, they struggle,” he said, adding that most farmers cannot access loans from commercial banks due to a lack of collateral.
Van Wyk said farmers’ productivity is hampered by the lack of a domestic market for their produce.
With regard to Agribank’s collateral free loan, Nangonya said: “Currently, the once-off amount is N$200 000. However, beneficiaries may also apply for the other loan products of the bank whenever they feel the N$200 000 is not enough,” he said.
Councillor Peter Kazongominja for the Aminuis constituency in the Omaheke region claims the largest challenge to the relocation initiative is corruption.
“Those who are sitting on these boards, starting from the regional board, are the problem within resettlement committees,” he says.
Sikopo says the resettlement process takes place according to the provisions of the Agricultural Commercial Land Reform Act.