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Economy, agriculture and food security

Namibia’s GDP was US$4 700 million in 2003. The value added by agriculture was 10 percent of GDP, of which 75-80 percent are attributed to livestock farming. The sector provides occupation for 38 percent of the economically active population and 58 percent of the population working in agriculture is male.

Agriculture is segmented in two very different sectors:

  • The commercial sector, with around 4 000 mostly white freehold farmers concentrating on livestock.
  • The communal sector, mainly in the north, supports around 140 000 families. It is characterized by low levels of agricultural productivity, high incidences of poverty, food insecurity, lack of appropriate farming methods and high unemployment levels. Farmers in communal areas engage in rainfed crop and livestock production, making the sector vulnerable to climatic variability, which is reflected in the high variability of output from one year to another; the sector is further constrained by poor marketing initiatives. Access to land is governed by custom, which contributes to a low level of technology and output due to lack of official ownership, which hampers access to funding.

Growth in the agricultural sector has averaged 1.2 percent per year since independence in 1988, while since 1993 growth has averaged 2.8 percent per year. The sector is strongly influenced by climatic conditions and as a result the contribution to GDP has varied between 6.8 percent and 12.3 percent since 1990, with low contributions in drought years. Since 1995, agricultural growth has barely kept pace with population growth, which can be attributed directly to the below-average rainfall in Namibia over the past few years. As a result of low rainfall there was considerable de-stocking of livestock in 1996, which led to a 60 percent drop in the number of cattle marketed in 1997. Cereal production has been similarly affected. Growth in the agricultural sector is expected to be weak in the coming years, implying negative per capita growth. Food imports amount to about 7 percent of the total value imports. Namibia imports sugar, maize, edible offal, wheat, concentrated milk and cream, cheese and butter. Agricultural exports comprise mainly livestock and meat products and account for about 15 percent of all Namibian exports.

The value added per m3 of water in irrigation is very low compared to manufacturing and service sectors, about US$1.20/m3 compared to U$44/m3 and US$93/m3 respectively.


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