Author Archives: Prenusha

R1 billion boost for Namibian agriculture

The project is aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity, thereby reducing imports of cereal crops, as well as facilitating job creation, and enhancing household incomes of especially rural people.

Namibia’s ministry of agriculture, water and forestry will implement the project over a five-year period. It is estimated that about 294 500 crop farmers, 10 000 livestock farmers and 111 smallholder farmer cooperatives, as well as 800 000 people indirectly involved in these value chains, will benefit from the project.

The cost of the project is expected to be R1,42 billion, of which the ADBG will finance 70,5%, while the government and beneficiaries will contribute the remaining 25,5% and 4%, respectively.

“Many other African countries are standing in line for this type of funding as it translates into soft loans [with] significantly lower [interest rates] than what is available in the open market. It would even be a great boost for the South African farming industry,”

Theo de Jager, chairperson of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACUA) said.

One of the main reasons why many countries struggled to attract this type of funding was the uncertainty about land ownership and property rights.

“A country such as Zimbabwe would really benefit from such a loan to help it get back on its feet, but it is unlikely to happen in the absence of significant change in its land ownership policies. Namibia on the other hand is a leading example of transformation that does not threaten property ownership,” he said.

Kenya cashew nut exports decline after government ban

It has been reported that the country’s nut industry is in dire straits after an export ban imposed by the Kenyan government in 2009.

According to the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council Foundation (INC) some countries have reported imports of relatively small amounts of shelled cashews from Kenya.

INC Ambassador for Kenya, Mbugua Nugi, said: “Kenya’s cashew nut industry did not report cashew exports during the last few years since the ban, either (sic) in-shell nor shelled.”

Nugi said the ban has its pros and cons, and could be lifted through an Act of parliament based on whether it had achieved its objectives, “however, its genesis and intention was and still remains to encourage more value addition through processing of raw cashew within Kenya’s borders and support the economy by providing jobs and more foreign exchange earnings”.

He added that this was “in line with the aspirations of Kenya’s vision 2030 and the desire to progress from a primary-producer-based economy towards manufacturing and an industrialised nation”.

But some farmers have been discouraged, saying they were being exploited by processors manipulating prices to their advantage, and had, according to reports, started uprooting their cashew trees.

The government is encouraging these farmers to replant the trees, and issuing free or subsidised seedlings and extension services. The seedlings are significant, as most of Kenya’s cashew trees are more than 40 years old.

There are also projects aimed at specific agronomic and market development challenges.

These will be funded by non-governmental organisations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA); and the African Cashew Alliance (ACA) Walmart Foundation; among others, to support the value chain.

FAO hosts fall armyworm workshop in Kenya

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Southern Africa (FAOSA) is hosting a two-day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the region’s response to fall armyworm (FAW). The meeting closes tomorrow, 26 April.

Native to the Americas, FAW has spread rapidly across parts of Africa since about mid-2016, and poses a serious threat to food security in affected areas.

According to FAOSA , the meeting’s objectives included: reviewing the current status of FAW infestation in southern Africa; agreeing on a harmonised system to monitor FAW and assess its impacts; reviewing and adopting standard protocols for FAW assessments; sharing country-specific experiences of FAW infestation and management efforts, to develop a framework for monitoring and managing FAW at regional and country levels; and identifying opportunities for collaboration to sustainably manage FAW in southern Africa.

Dr Peter Chinwada, an entomologist at the University of Zimbabwe, said that stakeholders had to understand the biology, ecology, host plant spectrum, and exotic origins of FAW to manage the pest.

He highlighted the need to concurrently control other crop pests, without promoting FAW’s resistance to current effective pesticides.

Chinwada pointed out that cash-strapped and poorly equipped farmers were particularly vulnerable without the pest control resources wealthier farmers could afford.

When looking at more cost-effective solutions, farmers at the meeting noted some of the pest’s ecological weaknesses.

These include natural predators, susceptibility to certain chemicals, and intolerance for heavy rains and low temperatures, particularly during the FAW’s early larval development stages. This knowledge could help poorer farmers control the pest.

FAOSA’s umbrella body, FAO, has also prioritised assistance to tackling FAW in southern Africa.

Zimbabwe plans to revive beef industry

The Zimbabwe government recently announced it had found investors to commit over
US$48 million to restore CSC, which had lost markets and investment, and accrued significant debt.

Formerly the Cold Storage Commission, CSC had to dispose assets to pay debts estimated at over US$23 million, including salary arrears of US$3,5 million.

Joseph Made, minister of agriculture, mechanisation and irrigation development, told the national weekly, The Sunday Mail, that parties from the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and Rwanda were to invest over US$48 million in CSC.

“We are undertaking surgical work at the Cold Storage Company, which will superintend Command Livestock, which targets growing livestock and beef exports,” Made said.

The investment should help boost breeding, acquire skills, upgrade CSC infrastructure, and negotiate its debt overhang – an obstacle to more investment. The foreign investment news follows an announcement last month (May 2017) that the country’s pension fund, the National Social Security Authority, would invest US$18 million in CSC.

But Eddie Cross, economist and formerly chief executive officer at the CSC, argues that it is time to consider privatising the company, even without foreign investors.

He said CSC’s problems were not financial and could not be solved by throwing money at them, and that “as [a] state-owned company the CSC cannot function as it should without the cattle producers and the meat industry being involved”.

“In my view the CSC could be privatised today, with 100% Zimbabwean control at no cost to the state; in fact I believe the state could recover, in full, the value of the loans assumed from CSC.”

Cross suggested Zimbabwe adopt Kenya and Namibia’s approach, and sell CSC and its assets to the beef industry. Namibia sold its Meat Corporation to the industry on a 25-year loan, which was paid back in 18 years.

Despite Cross’s comments, the country’s Commercial Farmers Union welcomed the news, confident that the investment would grow the beef industry and revive its meat exports.