Agriculture in NamibiaNamibia is an arid country in south-western Africa with a total land area of 824 292 km2. Natural borders in Namibia are formed by the rivers Kunene and Kavango in the north and the Zambezi, Kwando, Linyanti and Chobe in the northeast, as well as the Orange River in the south. These are all perennial rivers whereas the rivers inland only carry water occasionally during the rainy season. The country consists of poorly vegetated steppe-like areas dominant in southern and western regions, the Namib Desert in the west along the Atlantic Ocean, the Kalahari Desert in the southeast, extensive savannah and woodlands in the central and north-eastern areas, and subtropical forests in the far north-eastern regions.
Mostly, Namibia has a subtropical desert climate characterized by great differences in day and nighttime temperatures, low rainfall and overall low humidity. Average annual rainfall varies from less than 20 mm on the Atlantic coast to 600 mm in the northeast. Only eight percent of the country receives more than 500 mm in average annually. Most rain falls during the summer and drought is a common phenomenon throughout the country. Low and variable rainfall and the inherently poor soils are major obstacles to optimum agriculture production. Despite its marginal contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the agriculture sector remains central to the lives of the majority of the population. Directly or indirectly, it supports over 70 percent of the country's population. The sector can be divided into two distinct sub-sectors: the capital intensive, relatively well developed and export oriented commercial sub-sector; and the subsistence-based, high-labour, low-technology communal sub-sector (subsistence farming).
The commercial sector covers about 44 per cent of the total land, though it accommodates only 10 per cent of the population, while the communal sector covers 41 per cent of the total land area and accommodates about 60 per cent of the population. Agricultural production – and subsequently income – is low in the subsistence sector for a number of reasons, including limited access to markets.
Other factors specific to rural areas in Namibia include: chronic drought and consequent water shortages resulting in death of animals and crop failures, widespread soil erosion and land degradation, lack of agricultural land and isolation from markets, limited income generating opportunities. Despite its arid and semi-arid climate, Namibia is able to produce a variety of crops ranging from cereals, fruits and horticulture products. The horticulture covers fresh agricultural produce including tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, butternuts, beans and groundnuts, dates, grapes, watermelons, span speck, citrus and others under irrigations. Cereals crops include maize, pear millet (mahangu), wheat and sunflower. Table grapes, grown mostly along the Orange River in the country’s arid south, are becoming an increasingly important commercial crop and a significant employer of seasonal labor.
Corn is grown primarily in the area known as the Grootfontein–Otavi–Tsumeb triangle, where farms are much smaller than in other parts of the country.
Wild plant species are also utilized in Namibia.
Harpagophytum procumbens (PEDALIACEAE) - Grapple plant, Devil's claw - medicinal: anti-arthritic, secondary tuberous roots sliced & dried, exported to Europe for production of teas & other medicines
Tylosema esculentum(FABACEAE) - Marama bean - large edible seeds rich in proteins and with good quality, high oil content edible tuberous roots rich in protein
Citrullus lanatus (wild and semi-wild forms) (CUCURBITACEAE) Tsamma, Wild watermelon - seed oil used in production of cosmetics fruit flesh eaten & used as livestock feed
Acanthosycios horridus (CUCURBITACEAE) edible melon with large, edible seeds with high oil content; was previously exported for confectionery market
Cleome gynandra (CAPPARACEAE) leaf vegetable also known elsewhere in Africa Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra
Marula -large edible fleshy fruit used for juices, preserves and making alcohol protein and oil-rich nut some breeding work done
Berchemia discolor (RHAMNACEAE) - Bird plum - medium sized tree producing large numbers of sweet, edible fruit possible use in agroforestry
Schinziophyton rautanenii (EUPHORBIACEAE) Manketti - large nuts with high oil content staple food during periods of drought in some areas
Strychnos cocculoides (LOGANIACEAE) Monkey orange - large edible fleshy fruits possible use in agroforestry
Vangueria esculenta (RUBIACEAE) - large edible fruits, Ximenia americana - large edible, fleshy, acidic fruits
Livestock farming comprises approximately two-thirds of agricultural production, with crop farming and forestry making up the remaining third of production. According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, livestock’s contribution to the nominal GDP rose to 3.5 percent in 2020, compared to 3 percent in 2019. Meat processing (which the Namibian government accounts for under manufacturing) contributes to another 0.2 - 0.4 percent of GDP.
Cattle grazing is predominant in the central and northern regions, while karakul sheep and goat farming are concentrated in the more arid southern regions. The export of live animals (mostly cattle and sheep) has historically contributed to about two-thirds of agricultural exports by value. In 2019, Namibia exported about 12,400 metric tons of meat. Most meat is exported to the United States, Europe, South Africa, and China.
Referred to as one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world, Namibia’s fishing sector is blessed with a diversity of species and resources. These include hake, horse mackerel, monkfish, rock lobster, crab, large pelagic fish, line fish, guano, seaweed, seal, and many more. Hake and horse mackerel are most prominent Resources during the 2014-2020 period they accounted for 87% oflanded catches, 82% of the average annual landed volume, and 60% of the total fisheries export value in that period.
According to the latest NSA GDP activity statistics, the fishing sector contributed 2.5% to the Namibian economy in 2017. Currently the sector employs a total of 10,301 people according to 2018 statistics.