Namibia Agriculture and Fishing

By | May 24, 2021


In addition to mining, fishing also plays an important role in Namibia. As few people know, Namibia is one of the top ten fishing nations in the world in terms of catch value, but it is hardly perceived by the public as a fishing nation. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that fishing and processing are mainly concentrated in Walvis Bay and (with some reservations) L├╝deritz. Fishing makes an important contribution to GDP, which fluctuates strongly from year to year. In 2013, the share of fishing in the country’s GDP was US $ 365 million, about half the corresponding share of agriculture in GDP (US $ 727 million), although the contribution of fishing was achieved with a fraction of the number of workers who work in agriculture.

According to naturegnosis, fishing and on-board processing at sea are counted as part of the primary sector, while the added value from fish processing on land is recorded as part of the secondary sector (processing industry). Unfortunately, a large part of the added value through further processing does not take place in the country, but fishing licenses are given to foreign companies, which then process the fish either directly on board or in their respective home countries (especially Spain). Nevertheless, around 15,000 Namibians work in the fish industry, about half each at sea and in the fish processing industry on land. About 90% of the fish catch is exported, again mainly to Spain.


Due to the low, unreliable and often unfavorably distributed rainfall over the year, the cultivation of agricultural crops in Namibia is risky and also relatively unproductive. So arable farming is mainly found in a few (relatively) rainier areas in the north of the country, especially in the so-called ‘maize triangle between Tsumeb, Otavi and Grootfontein, as well as north of Etosha Park and in Caprivi. The rest of the country is actually only suitable for extensive grazing because of the low and unreliable rainfall.

Exceptions are the border rivers on the northern and southern borders of Landes and the area around the Hardap dam near Mariental. There and in a few other places in the country some irrigated agriculture is practiced. Additional irrigation areas will soon be created below the Neckar Valley dam, which was completed in March 2020, near Keetmanshoop in the south of the country. The plans for the use of the dam provide for the gradual development of approx. 50 square kilometers of new irrigation areas.

The limited irrigation areas are primarily used for growing vegetables and fruit, but they are not sufficient to meet the needs of the domestic market. The only noteworthy export product of Namibian irrigation agriculture is table grapes that are grown along the Orange River, right on the border with South Africa. The grapes are of very high quality and can be marketed very well internationally, as only a few other countries can deliver high-quality table grapes at harvest time on the Orange River. In Germany, too, Namibian table grapes are occasionally offered in large supermarkets (e.g. Lidl and Rewe).

The main products and also the main export products of Namibian agriculture are beef and sheep meat. Some of the animals will be exported alive (especially to South African slaughterhouses), some as frozen meat and as processed meat products. A special niche product in sheep breeding is karakul skin, which is produced in Namibia in high quality, but only in relatively small quantities. The majority of the skins are auctioned off at special auctions in Copenhagen and are mainly exported to Eastern Europe and especially Russia via these auctions. Agriculture provides a large part of the employment opportunities (especially for low-skilled Namibians), but at just 4% – 5% it only contributes relatively little to Namibian GDP.

There are two completely different forms of production in agriculture in Namibia. In the communal areas north of the veterinary fence, labor-intensive subsistence agriculture (cattle breeding and some arable farming) dominates on comparatively small areas. In contrast, the farms in the so-called ‘Commercial Areas’ south of the veterinary fence are large to very large, purely commercial farms, comparable to the large ranches in the USA and Australia.

These large farms operate extensive cattle breeding with only few staff but high capital investment, with sheep breeding dominating in the (particularly) dry areas (i.e. especially in the south of the country), while in the (somewhat) more rainy areas in the central parts of Namibia, above all Cattle are bred. The high-quality beef and sheep meat produced by these large farms is primarily produced for the world market and exported to South Africa and Norway in particular. In contrast to this, the agricultural products that are produced in the communal areas are mainly produced for personal use and are mainly marketed and consumed locally.

It is interesting that inziwschen has a fairly large and growing proportion of these farms also involved in tourism and uses tourism as an additional economic pillar. Many farms are registered as so-called ‘guest farms’ and offer accommodation options for individual tourists and small tourist groups, often combined with other services such as farm tours and the like. Other farmers use parts of their farm (often the entire farm) for hunting tourism and so-called ‘game farming’. Game farming refers to the systematic management and use of the wild animal population on the farm. For example, practically every butcher in Namibia offers orxy, kudu and zebra meat and almost every restaurant has different types of game on its menu.

Namibia Agriculture