During his address at the National Namibian Famers’ Union congress, Meatco CEO Adv. Vekuii Rukoro, reinforced calls in the industry for a unified agricultural union.
Adv. Rukoro was invited to speak to small-scale farmers attending the congress, which carried the theme “Small-scale Farmers key to Household Food Security”.
In his address Adv. Rukoro also congratulated Mr. Emvula on his new appointment as the President of the NNFU during the congress, and assured Mr. Emvula that his door will always be open to continue the positive relationship between Meatco and the NNFU.
During the congress farmers were informed that calls for a unified agricultural organisation, representative of all Namibian farmers are increasing. Adv. Rukoro therefore provided some practical proposals and solutions to the debates that arose during the congress regarding this matter.
He raised the fact that although farmers have categorised themselves into commercial, communal and emerging groups, the boundaries are still unclear, because no formal definition for these groups exist. He continued to say it might also be the reason that the agricultural industry does not agree on what constitutes a communal, emerging or commercial farmer.
“Does it have to do with land ownership? Does it have to do with the farmers’ approach towards farming? Does it have to do with the fact if a farmer was previously disadvantaged or not?” Vekuii asked in his speech.
Adv. Rukoro said according to him all Namibian farmers are at different stages of the same journey.
“We work with the land to provide food. Some of us do so on a subsistence basis and some of us provide food not only for household consumption, but feed the Namibian nation and also export products to other countries worldwide. Fundamentally we are the same, but the philosophies, techniques and principles differ,” he said.
He asked farmers at the congress to imagine all commercial, emerging and communal farmers in Namibia as one collective unit.
“You will see that this group of farmers has knowledge of the best farming practices in the world, this group has the support of policy makers, this group has access to production resources and other raw materials, this group has access to some of best international markets and this group has the benefit of economies of scale. But if we are divided, we lose the benefit of these factors working together,” he added.
He added that because Namibian farmers are on the same journey, albeit at different stages of development, it makes sense to have a common vision.
“We should stop dividing ourselves into smaller interest groups, because it does not benefit the individuals that make up those groups,” Rukoro said.
“An organisation dedicated to the well-being of small scale farmers only, for example, has a vested interest in maintaining a membership of small scale farmers. That inherently means you are looking for as many small scale farmers as possible and keeping them as members. But this is conflicting with the interest of the small scale farmer, who wants to move on to become a larger scale farmer,” he added emphasizing the point raised by the CEO of SACAU, Mr. Ismael Sunga.
“However, an organisation dedicated towards the well-being of Namibian farmers, is a different thing altogether. It is an organisation that looks after farmers regardless of where they are in their journey and allows these farmers to pool their resources for the betterment of the entire agricultural sector.
“At Meatco we believe in a future inclusive union able to accommodate all Namibian farmers in their diversity. Meatco would be willing to back it up financially and otherwise as we have a vested interest in this process. Our business philosophy is: if it goes well with all the farmers, it will go well with Meatco.”
Adv. Rukoro said it would take a lot of hard work to get there. “Many trust issues remain from the past, especially between those who are considered previously disadvantaged and those who are considered previously advantaged. Nowhere is this rift more visible than in the farming communities.”
“If we are able to bridge these gaps of trust, and start to work together for the common good, it will not only be beneficial to the agricultural sector, but for the country as a whole. Then a unified agricultural organisation will be more than a grand vision, it will be noteworthy of our history books. That is indeed not a small task.”
In his conclusion, Adv. Rukoro urged leaders of organised agriculture to view this not only as a task, but as a responsibility and a duty to unify all Namibian farmers, and that he looks forward to sharing this responsibility with his fellow leaders in the industry.
Speaking on behalf of the NNFU, Mr. Oloff Munjanu acknowledged Meatco for the presence of the CEO at the dinner and for the sponsorship to make the congress possible. He thanked Meatco for being a partner of the NNFU and highlighted the fact that the relationship between Meatco and the union is strengthened because they have a shared vision for the industry.
He added that the NNFU and Meatco look at what each party can offer to ensure the success of the agricultural industry as a whole, and what the two parties can jointly offer to shape the industry.
Mr. Munjanu expressed further gratitude on behalf of the NNFU to Meatco for understanding why the union exists and helping them to realize their goals. He thanked Meatco for always being willing to walk the extra mile for them.
“It is very clear that Meatco supports the NNFU, financially and by collectively moving forward with the union and the farmers,” he said.
Meatco was the main sponsor of the 2014 NNFU congress. The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Honourable John Mutorwa officially opened the congress on Thursday, 24 April 2014. The activities ended on Saturday, 26 April 2014.