Thursday, November 15, 2007

Namibia - New Ways of Living Needed

Namibia's land reform programme is a "zero sum game" that merely swaps one form of poverty for another . The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a non-governmental human rights organisation based in the capital, Windhoek, said in a report reviewing the achievements so far of Namibia's land reform programme, No Resettlement Available, that "most resettlement farms are not doing very well; in fact, it is not apparent that any are."

Namibia, which won its independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990, inherited a colonial division of land in which about half the agricultural land is owned by 3,500 white farmers. Farms average about 5,000 hectares in the north of the country and 10,000 hectares in the south, while nearly 1 million black Namibians live on "heavily overgrazed" communal lands. Namibia is an arid country of about 825,400sq km, of which only about 100sq km are suitable for dry [non-irrigated] crop cultivation; it suffers drought in six out of every 10 years with a growing population of about 2 million people . While white commercial farmers were heavily subsidised with both capital and large numbers of livestock by past German and South African colonial governments, resettled farmers have neither, and are left to an impoverished lifestyle which is often as bad or worse than the one they had prior to joining the resettlement programme.

The size of the farms allocated and the agricultural methods practiced were among the problems identified. :-
"Black farmers get smaller units than white farmers held, but remain stuck with the same plan to be livestock farmers . Since even the larger white farms were not very profitable this apportionment is both setting black farmers up to fail, and failing to reconceptualise a new Namibian agricultural order that could both feed the growing populationand provide reasonable incomes to the new black commercial farmers."

The reports goes on to explain :-
"Dividing large farms into units of one-fifth to one-seventh the size of the original farm - being the typical resettlement farm size - not only applies the failed colonial model of cattle farming, but further weakens it, in that farms of such small sizes cannot succeed. The large commercial farm of the apartheid era, an old and inefficient structure of agriculture, is being reproduced in a diluted form."

The Namibian government, like those of neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, has made land reform a central policy tenet, and the government's resettlement scheme has placed 800 farms in black hands in the 17 years since independence . This is about 12 percent of all farms, or less or than one percent a year, so the process will take over 100 years to complete . The report also cited numerous failures in the division and resettlement of commercial farms, from not granting land title and "leaving poor people in some kind of tenant relationship with the government which is not empowering them," to a lack of transparency, the absence of any support for resettled farmers and the overblown bureaucracy of the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement - and the government generally. For example, resettling 9,000 people in 12 years amounts to fewer than 800 a year, hardly more than 125-130 families. Yet it takes a staff of perhaps 1,000 government employees to do this work

The report recommends an overhaul of the agricultural sector, from the "apartheid era" cattle farming, to new farming methods such as "crop cultivation and tropical agriculture". Tropical agriculture is usually labour-intensive subsistence farming and cash-crop production, using techniques like moveable cages that confine animals to feeding on weeds, the use of crop residues as litter in the cages, disposal of human waste in deep pits that are later planted with trees, and the use of ashes as fertiliser and in soap production.

Even poorly paid farm workers (an estimated 222,000 people ) , have their basic needs met: they receive a regular salary, are allowed to have chicken , small stock and perhaps even cattle, and live in reasonably good housing. All of this disappears on a Namibian resettlement farm.

By only abolishing just the apartheid racist system it should be obvious to many that the capitalist economic system cannot solve the problems of poverty and production . With the struggle for acquiring political rights out of the way , it is now time for the struggle for a new society to begin .

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