Agribank launches new charcoal loan program
• MATTHEW DLAMINI at GOBABIS
AGRIBANK has launched a new biomass loan program that will provide financing to start-ups and existing biomass-based businesses.
The announcement was made by the bank’s vice president, Dagmar Honsbein, during the official opening of the new Agribank branch in Gobabis on Friday.
“The new loan program will be available to the public from November 1, 2021,” she said.
According to Honsbein, the thickening of the bush affects 26,000,000 ha in nine of the country’s 14 regions, and the bank estimates that the sustainable use of this bush would provide a significant amount of groundwater, improve biodiversity and opening up land to greater rangeland productivity.
For a number of years, farmers turned this bush biomass into charcoal to increase farm income, and it turned into a big business.
“Therefore, this innovative finance product will support the conversion of the bush into valuable products, such as charcoal, furniture, animal feed and fuel pellets, and unlock potential for the economy, the environment and social welfare, ”Honsbein said, adding that would free up swathes of land to improve livestock potential.
Namibia currently has 230 charcoal producers and 24 charcoal processors, creating 7,560 direct jobs and supporting over 50,000 people.
“Charcoal production is currently equivalent to bush harvesting on about 75,000 ha of land per year, and statistics indicate that the industry is expected to grow by an average of 8% over the next five years, with a figure of annual business forecast of N $ 700 million. Honsbein said.
She said it was important for the bank to introduce the loan program because it expects the industry to create 375 direct jobs from harvesting and processing in the first year, and 950 jobs in the second. year.
The bank strives to provide relevant financing programs to support natural resource management to enhance Namibia’s bio-economic potential, she said.
Honsbein said Agribank disbursed new loans worth N $ 217 million in fiscal year 2020/21, and the Omaheke region accounted for N $ 65.1 million, or 30% new business.
She said the Omaheke region is the second after the Zambezi region to benefit from the bank’s unsecured loan program, with over N $ 2 million in unsecured loans advanced in fiscal year 2020 / 21.
“We will definitely come back with more, such as possibly products around green hydrogen, community management of natural resources, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and novel foods made from marula, and many more,” he said. she declared.
In a vote of thanks, Agribank’s acting chief executive Louis du Toit said the mere fact that the bank established an office in Gobabis illustrates its commitment to the city and region of Omaheke.
He said Agribank gives loans with interest between 4% and 9% and that in September the bank has already granted farmers NN 97 million in loans.
“At least N $ 21 million has been spent on improving land and N $ 18 million on improving livestock,” he said.
In a speech read on his behalf, Omaheke Governor Pio Nganate said the bank should close the gap in the distribution of wealth by introducing loans for young people and women in the agricultural sector.
He urged farmers to add value to livestock with the help of Agribank by engaging in local meat processing.
“The Witvlei slaughterhouse is a project that farmers should see as a business opportunity for engagement. The bank should help entrepreneurs to diversify the regional economy from traditional animal production to crop production, ”Nganate said.
Entrepreneurs in the region are expected to deliver products, such as meat and vegetables, directly to the market and to public institutions, he said.
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