Agriculture powerful force for economic growth: Mutorwa

27 Aug 2015 15:30pm
WINDHOEK, 27 AUG (NAMPA) – Agriculture should not be seen as the 'employment of last resort' but as a powerful force for economic growth in Namibia says the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa.
He was speaking on Thursday during the official opening of a five-day meeting that was organised by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (Ruforum).
The meeting started on Tuesday and ends on Saturday. Ruforum is a network of 46 African countries founded by Vice Chancellors of universities in 2004 with its headquarters at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Ruforum’s vision is to link a vibrant agricultural sector to universities that can produce high quality research, responsive to the demands of farmers for innovations; and able to generate sustainable livelihoods; as well as national economic development.
“Agriculture must not be viewed as a last resort for people, who cannot find the resources to move to glittering cities where people ideally and normally get industrial jobs. Agriculture is a skill to be valued and improved upon from early childhood, through training and in careers. Government and schools must treat agriculture as a skill to be learnt and to be acquired,” he proposed.
Mutorwa indicated that universities should increasingly consider agriculture as an important area for research and should devote competent and committed staff, and adequate resources to develop new agricultural techniques that make sense.
However, he raised the concern that agriculture on the continent is currently at a cross road at which persistent food shortages are compounded by threats from climate change; something that should be studied and understood as to have agriculture adapt.
On a positive note, Mutorwa said Africa faces three major opportunities that can transform agricultural activities on the continent into powerful forces for economic growth. These include advances in science and technology; creation of regional markets on the continent; and emergence of a new crop of entrepreneurial leaders dedicated to the continent’s economic development and improved agenda.
Meanwhile, speaking at the same occasion, Ruforum’s Executive Director, Adipala Ekwamu emphasised that the event, which includes a board meeting as well as an annual general meeting (AGM), comes on the heels of “celebrations” that marked 10 years of the organisations’ existence and contribution to the higher education and agricultural sectors in Africa.
“Universities in Africa have been criticised as remaining relatively isolated from the populations they serve. Through a transformed research and outreach agenda and enhanced networking, there are now significant examples of change. Universities have especially demonstrated considerable improvement in their outreach to communities,” he added.
Delegates include scientists from various universities from 22 countries on the African continent. They are attending the 14th board meeting of Ruforum, which is taking place at the University of Namibia (UNAM)’s Neudam College, while the AGM is slated for Saturday here at a local hotel.