Development of SMEs in agriculture

By Rosalia David

WITH more than 57 percent of the employed population found in the informal sector, the percentage is an indication of the urgency required for the development of the sector.
This was mentioned by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Calle Schlettwein during the launch of the Urban Agriculture project.
Schlettwein said the above mentioned strategy should be done in order to sustain and guarantee jobs and income in the informal sector.
“The Government ofthe Republic of Namibia recognises the important role that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can play to unlock the economic potential of formal and informal sectors of the economy. It is for this reason that the development of small and medium enterprises has been identified as a priority under pillar two of the Harambee Prosperity Plan II on economic advancement,” he explained.
The minister added that there is also a dedicated budget for the promotion, support and financing of the development of small businesses in Namibia, including SMEs in agriculture.
“This ties in well with the development of the peri-urban agriculture project which will be launched here today.
“It is also worth highlighting, that the majority of smallholder farmers in urban and rural areas does not have access to formal agricultural markets and therefore depend on informal markets to market and sell their produce,” he stressed.
According to Schlettwein, however, these markets are often characterised by poor marketing infrastructure, resulting in high post-harvest losses (PHLs), which in turn, culminates in the loss of revenue and real income to farmers and vendors.
He said, if Sub-Saharan countries, including Namibia are to honour their obligations towards the achievement of SDG 1 and 2 on ending poverty and zero hunger respectively, as well as to deliver on SDG target 12.3 on reduction of PHLs, there is a need to address the inefficiencies by directing targeted and dedicated investment towards the development of both hard and software of the marketing systems of the agricultural informal sectors of our countries.
In the same breathe he mentioned that the government has already started with such investment initiatives through the establishment of the Agricultural Trade and Marketing Agency (AMTA) and the construction of Strategic Food Reserve Facilities which serve a double purpose of storage and a ready market for farmers.
However, he said, more needs to be done to develop informal agricultural markets.
“It is estimated that 66 percent of the world population will be living in cities by 2050. These trends pose a big challenge in the form of meeting the food demand for the increasing world and urban populations. However, given the limited availability of arable land, technological innovation in agriculture provides the best tool to increase food production in order to satisfy the new food demands,” the minister stated.