Impact of rural migration on agriculture
Agribank’s technical advisor for livestock and rangeland management, Erastus Ngaruka, said rural migration refers to the movement of people from rural to urban areas.
He said migration is triggered by socio-economic factors such as employment, business, education and health, among other factors.
In Namibia, the phenomenon is particularly conspicuous, as evidenced by an influx of people from rural to urban areas in recent years in search of better opportunities, primarily for employment and education.
“Some people also travel beyond Namibia's borders and immigrate to developed countries across the globe in search of better economic opportunities to sustain their livelihoods.”
Ngaruka said urban areas are perceived to provide better livelihood opportunities because of a myriad of large-scale developmental and economic activities.
However, he said urban areas are characterised by an increasing cost of living attributed to domestic and international economic eventualities, increasing commodity prices and climate change that continue to threaten sustainable livelihoods in the country.
"Moreover, the current economic conditions, global tensions, and the Covid-19 pandemic, amongst other factors, have exacerbated society’s vulnerability to poverty, thus prompting further rural to urban migration of people in search of better economic opportunities.”
Ultimately, rural migration reduces potential and sustainable agricultural productivity, especially at the household level, he warned.
In addition, water and electricity scarcity, including high maintenance costs, has become a burden in rural areas, resulting in the abandonment of some agricultural activities.
“Agriculture in Namibia is an economic pillar supporting all livelihoods in the form of food, employment and income and constitutes the main economic activity in rural areas, either for subsistence or on a commercial basis.”
Ngaruka said a reduction in agricultural productivity negatively affects food systems, threatening food self-sufficiency and food security.
“This in turn exerts tremendous pressure on the provision of food and other services such as land, water and sanitation in urban areas. At large, the reduction in agricultural productivity in the country results in increased spending on importation by the country to meet local food demand.”
Fill the gap
He said government feeding initiatives such as school feeding programmes and food banks may not be sustainable if local food production is not enhanced to fill the gap.
“Thus, to ensure food self-sufficiency and food security in Namibia, local food production is key, and this can be achieved through programmes aimed at promoting and assisting local food production in rural areas by providing appropriate support to individual and community projects in the form of skills, knowledge, materials, land improvement, value addition and market access.”
Vital education needs
Ngaruka said all stakeholders, including local authorities in urban areas, have critical roles to play in reducing rural-urban migration through coordinated efforts aimed at promoting agricultural projects in rural areas.
“To ensure the sustainability of these projects, local markets, which can include government institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons, among others, may have to be developed to absorb the produce, and in addition, critical support services such as water and electricity should be well developed to aid in the reduction of the cost of production.”
Ngaruka emphasised that agriculture is key to ensuring economic development and sustainable livelihoods in the country, advocating for its incorporation as a compulsory subject from the primary level onwards in the education system.