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Schlettwein to address parliament on unfinished N$141m dairy farm

Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform spokesperson Jona Musheko says minister Calle Schlettwein is soon to respond in parliament to an open letter by Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani leader about concerns over the status of the multimillion-dollar Uvhungu Vhungu dairy farm project in the Kavango East region.

The dairy farm’s construction took place about 10 years ago, but the project remains a white elephant.

“We cannot pre-empt his response. The matter was raised in parliament, and we will attend to it on the same platform,” Musheko says.

Venaani in his open letter said it is important to ensure the N$141-million project is completed to create job opportunities and economic benefits for locals.

“Our duty is towards the young generation that depend on us to pave the way for a brighter future,” he said in the letter dated 14 June.

Venaani said not using such a valuable resource not only deprives the nation of potential economic growth, but also exacerbates the unemployment crisis, especially among the youth.

“The dairy farm industry is pivotal in creating job opportunities and promoting sustainable development, both of which contribute significantly to our nation’s progress,” he said.

Venaani said the Namibian dairy sector is currently battling to survive, with production decreasing and the price-cost squeeze forcing producers to exit the sector.

He said reports indicate that raw milk production dropped from 21,8 million litres in 2019 to 17,2 million litres currently, which equates to a 21,1% decline in volume.

He said the operationalisation of the dormant dairy farm is of paramount importance to address the pressing challenges the country faces concerning food security.

Last year, Venaani visited the dairy farm and other state green schemes, which he described as “botched”.

According to the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Namibia is suffering a serious level of hunger, ranking 78th out of 116 countries.

“We import up to 80% of food, as not all goods can be sourced locally. Indicators reveal that malnutrition is a growing concern, with 24% of children under the age of five stunted, 6% experiencing wasting, and 13% being underweight,” Venaani said in the three-page letter.

“We have recently bore witness to the decimation of 16 family members who were in dire need of nourishment in the very region where this dairy farm lay dormant for the past 11 years,” he said.

This tragedy could have been avoided had the government and the ministry addressed food insecurity with urgency, he said.

“I will be the first to assert that issues such as these must never be politicised, yet the unavoidable truth remains that 33 years after independence, it is unacceptable that we still implore upon the government to urgently mechanise the agricultural sector.

“Forward-looking, sustainable agriculture relies on a delicate balance of maximising productivity and maintaining economic viability while minimising the utilisation of finite natural resources and detrimental environmental impacts,” the PDM leader said.