As the world evolves, innovation in modern agriculture becomes ever more significant.
The agricultural sector faces immense challenges, including the rising costs of supplies, climate change, a shortage of skilled labour as well as changes in consumer preferences.
It is therefore significant that solutions are initiated to ensure food security, sustainability and self-sufficiency in terms of crop production in Namibia.
This entails embracing a variety of modern farming practices as well as the latest technologies.
One key modern farming trend is considering more localised and urban farming.
In practice, this means producing food closer to the people who need it, thereby reducing transportation costs.
However, this can be hard to achieve given the challenges of space, water and soil in urban areas.
Embracing new farming methods is an important part of meeting this challenge.
These may include adopting vertical farming (growing crops in vertical layers); aquaponics, a system in which waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic creatures supplies nutrients and – hydroponics – the practice of growing plants in nutrient-rich water.
These methods generally use less water, soil, and land compared to traditional farming methods.
The world’s largest vertical farm, located in New Jersey in the United States, shows vertical farming can be done on a large scale with impressive results.
The project creators, Aero-Farm, say a vertical farm is 36 times more productive per square metre than a field farm.
Unfortunately, our youth and unemployed graduates cannot afford to venture into modern farming practices because of financial constraints.
This calls for the need for a more creative government in terms of agriculture.
The Namibian government should facilitate establishing adequate agricultural projects utilising modern techniques and technology.
These projects can be used for contract farming whereby young farmers who reach the required targets are retained while those who underperform give way to promising prospective farmers.
Such projects would also serve as great motivation for the youth to get involved in agricultural production as a means of socio-economic transformation and empowerment. The responsible authorities should also introduce land reform policies which would allow the youth easy access to agricultural land and provide adequate incentives and easily accessible soft loans to help the youth participate in growing high value crops.
INTEGRATION AND EDUCATION
Moreover, adopting modern farming practices can also help farmers deal with the effects of climate change which has contributed to decimating crop production for the past few years.
Communal farmers in the northern and north-eastern parts of Namibia have largely borne the brunt of this phenomenon, and their hard work in cultivating mainly sorghum, maize and millet should be acknowledged and appreciated.
However, they tend to only grow these cereal crops, leading to monoculture.
The responsible authorities need to educate farmers on crop rotation techniques.
Hence, the integration of both agronomy and horticulture should be encouraged to help control pests and enhance soil fertility and crop yields.
Interest in growing vegetable crops and not just cereal crops needs to be encouraged among Namibian crop farmers at all levels.
A changing planet calls for a change in our mindset and habits in terms of food production if we are to survive these trying times as a species.
WE HAVE TO ADAPT
Furthermore, the efforts of the Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB), in line with the Agronomic Industry Act (1992), should be recognised.
The NAB normally closes the borders every month to foreign fresh produce, thereby allowing local producers to supply local shops with fresh produce and cereal grains. However, because of an unreliable and inconsistent supply of these food items, the NAB has no option but to later open up the borders again to enable a constant and adequate supply of fresh produce/grains for the Namibian population.
This is an indication that more needs to be done in terms of crop production if we are to achieve the important goals of Vision 2030 which were set in 2004.
It is imperative that Namibian farmers adapt to prevailing climatic conditions by shifting to sustainable modern farming practices and technologies and that the Namibian government facilitates this process to ensure food security, positive socio-economic transformation, and an improved quality of life for our citizens.
- David Embula Mwaala has a BEd honours in mathematics and science and teaches agriculture David.Mwaala@edunet.na