In Namibian culture, most people earn their income through agriculture. In the country, 70% of people are either directly or indirectly supported by agriculture. Most children want to go to university and eventually get their dream job at an office in the city. Those people will go on to work 40 hours a week where job security is low and aspirations are high.
As the urban population in Namibia continues to grow, less people are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture. Children often times find farming and ranching undesirable. They don’t want to invest their time in the agricultural because they see it as a limiting field. This is a problem in Namibia’s society because pretty soon, the next generation will have to take over.
This shifting trend could be embedded in their minds because a lot of Namibian children grew up watching their families work on ranches, tending animals or watering crops, just to break even at the end of the season. These people want to break away from their agricultural background as quickly as they can, even if it means not going back.
The media is also an important factor to consider in shaping Namibian youths’ career aspirations. When television and movies show people working in luxury jobs, it is easy to want that too. Something has to be done to keep Namibia’s youth interested in agriculture.
“Real agriculture suffers from entrenched negative perceptions,” Fifi Rhodes wrote for New Era. “In the minds of many African youths, especially here in Namibia, a farmer is someone like their parents, doing backbreaking labour in the fields and getting little to show for it,” he wrote.
As an American who grew up surrounded by agriculture, this came as a shock to me. Why wouldn’t people want to work within the agricultural sector? After further research, I learned that the problem seems to be plaguing Americans as well. According to the United States Department of Agriculture 2012 Census of Agriculture, there were 95,429 less farms in 2012 than there was in 2007. This 4.3% difference that is expected to continue decreasing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that between 2012 and 2022, the projected numeric change in employment for the agricultural sector in America will decrease by 25,000 people.
Preserving farm and ranching culture within a community that is constantly growing and changing is hard. To help sustain and preserve agricultural culture in Namibia, we should examine the population’s education practices.
Children in Namibia are taught about agriculture in primary school, whereas extension programs are available where farm workers and managers can find help to make their farms as efficient as possible. To get children interested in agriculture, you should educate them young and teach their families how to be efficient farmers. “You can take the ox to the watering hole, but you can not make him drink from it,” Reginald Wentzel told me while talking about community involvement. “But you can try,” he continued.
Mr. Cecil Togarepi from The University of Namibia mentioned that one of the problems in Namibia is that although extension agents are readily available to provide feedback, few farmers are willing to ask for the extra help. If the older generation of farmers in Namibia actively seek help to maximize their yields, their farms will be more productive. The younger generation of farmers will see these efforts and be willing to invest their time in something that might be worth it in the long run.
It is all a matter of perspective, and it is only human nature to want better. This is the same for Namibia’s agricultural community.