Speech by Honorable Mr. Tjekero Tweya, Deputy Minister of Finance
Kavango Farmers Association
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Regional Governor of the Kavango Region;
Fellow Namibians, compatriots and comrades
I am greatly honoured and delighted to have been invited to address at this gathering here today. It is always a pleasure to come back to my region; the Kavango region; and even more so to escape the cosmopolitan life of Windhoek for a change and to re-acquaint myself with the splendid countryside.
The topic I was given as a contribution to this workshop is вЂњVision 2030 in PerspectivesвЂќ.
Since Vision 2030 objectives/targets; amongst other; will be measured by the achieved statistical data, it would be befitting to reflect on the current statistics of the Kavango region (вЂњthe regionвЂќ). The region is one of the densely populated regions in Namibia with 203 000 inhabitants, and a population growth rate of 3.7%. The rural people make up 72% of the entire region whereas close to 50% is between 15 and 60 years old. The literacy rate is 70 but there is more effort needed to ensure educational attainment. Half of the people remain employed or are underemployed especially in the agricultural sector whilst the cash economy comprise only of 20% and 80% is non-cash based. Just like in other regions, the region faces вЂњtheвЂќ three evils of underdevelopment, namely: poverty, widespread unemployment and HIV/Aids.
Mr. Moderator. These statistics do give a concise picture on the economic developmental challenges the region faces today. The following issues are some of the many that the region should regard for the future to realize its vision 2030 of becoming a region all of us can proudly identify with.
Agricultural food supply
It is important that we raise the standards and the supply of agricultural produce in the region. Nationally, the Government has put in place a green scheme to that effect and thus it is important that the region takes full advantage of such a scheme.
I would want to see a situation that agricultural food supply in the region is demand led and not producer driven. In other words, with the conscious effort indicated in Vision 2030 where we see for the future relatively high income levels in Namibia countrywide and with the concerted efforts to bring the majority of the people from our region into the economic mainstream, it should be obvious that demand for agriculture should grow and supply should respond in turn.
This can only aid in ensuring food security and address the food scarcity, hunger and misery that some of our people find themselves in.
Development of small producers in agriculture
According to Vision 2030, agricultural modernization is the key of ensuring balanced economic development in Namibia and in all our regions. Given that our region is more agricultural based, it is important that we focus on how to transform the current farming methods into more agro-business based to produce the likes of dates, grapes, spaghetti, and rice. Hence, the Kavango region can only grow if we attend to the small crop producers that are already striving to ensure the production of agricultural produce.
There are of course challenges for our small crop producers. These concerns, lack of agricultural tools or implements to till or cultivate our lands, standards that meet agro business based type of processing, and competition against other regions or RSA in terms of meeting the supply of produce for the shops and supermarkets.
The Government has put in place certain provisions to ensure that greater care be taken to support and nurture small, local, traditional food producers. Such a support can also be good for small businesses as small producers would be inclined to supply on a wider basis not only to the bigger shops with a foreign interest but to small businesses which are traditionally locally owned.
Rural economic development
Mr. Moderator. Allow me to turn to the broader subject of Rural Economic Development and the challenges facing our rural communities according to Vision 2030.
First, I would like to make an observation. From the regional development perspective, there is a tendency to think of rural economic development as being synonymous with agricultural development, the topic I have just covered. Allow me to indicate that according to Vision 2030, the two may be related but one is not synonymous with the other.
The rural economy in Namibia and especially in the region is much broader than the agricultural development. It involves local tourism, be it community based or commercial. We have fine tourist attractions in this region that we can take advantage of and market uniquely as вЂњKavango regionвЂќ so as to entice more tourists (both local and foreign) to visit.
Rural economic development also involves rural infrastructure development. It concerns economic infrastructure such as road and rail construction, buildings, electricity, water provision (dams), plants etc. It also concerns social infrastructure such as housing, safe water, and sanitation services.
Current statistics are showing that we need to do more in terms of putting in place both the economic and social infrastructure. I would therefore like to urge our local and regional authorities to put in more effort to attend to the dire need of drafting a rural infrastructure plan so that the national government can avail resources with the involvement of local communities to develop our rural infrastructure.
We should also be mindful that rural development policies should not just come from the national government but in order to ensure region-specific policies for rural infrastructure such as for the Kavango region, your involvement is crucial from the start. Whilst agricultural development according to the green scheme has a national element of rural development, we should be heedful to look at the rural development from a broader context but taking a proactive role of determining what our needs are specific to the Kavango region in terms of community and commercial based tourism, construction of roads and road tarring, food security and adequate agro business based supply.
One of the principal drivers of Vision 2030 is the desire to achieve sustainable development especially in the regions. This means we need to establish self-sustaining and confident rural communities in the region that can stand up for themselves, rather than being dependent on State support on an ongoing basis. Hence, our need for regional development need to take a horizontal approach of networking, liaising and active involvement of all rural communities to prosper, thrive and maintain their regional identity, on a self-sustaining basis into the future.
Forward looking Kavango rural economy
Mr. Moderator. I would like to emphasize the point that to achieve success in terms of rural development, the region must be seen in the light of national economic development and link to global and regional developments. We should not shy away from being too region specific only but make sure that what ever regional initiatives we undertake should be in line with what we do nationally, globally and regionally. The region can produce traditional foods; for example, while at the same time ensures to market these quality products in Europe for instance.
This kind of approach may involve a shift in the traditional way of doing things. But whilst such a situation may be the case, we can make sure that traditional activities in the region are also in tune with the modern way of economic life in Namibia and through a reinforcing and self-sustaining way transform the regional rural economies in Namibia to an overall economic development as envisioned in Vision 2030.
Mr. Moderator. I firmly believe that the Kavango region has a role to play in the future economic development of Namibia if we move away from agricultural centric way of thinking to rural development. I am aware that there are challenges, but if we would like to reduce poverty and aid in economic growth, we should not wait until in 2030 to implement our plans & objectives. Some people might argue that there is still 25 years left to reach the goal of vision 2030. That may be a lot of time as an individual but not a lot of time for growing our region. Now is the time to put into place regional rural development plans and ensure that we are not left behind by the national efforts currently confronting us as a Namibian nation to reach Vision 2030.
I thank you.