The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 7

 

Agriculture – Namibian Horticulture focus

The solution to our economic problems have been with us all along and it’s really simple.

Agriculture should be the backbone of all economies and the backbone of our energy and water needs as is so successfully demonstrated by European countries. Our Namibian Government knows this and have put many strategies and efforts into place to make it happen, however the combining factor which is the Circular Bio Based Economy has been omitted. By linking all the efforts towards this economic model, economies of scale and coordinated activities will drive the change needed.

The way of looking at this solution is to determine what is needed now and how can it be scaled as requirements change.

Agriculture is the number one user of resources and number one polluter on earth. This situation is at the core of enabling a sustainable, renewable and financially able model for Namibia as being demonstrated throughout the world.

Namibia, has vast accessible land, it’s bordered by the Atlantic ocean and is blessed with year round sunshine. Each of our regions have areas where communal farming land is available for upcoming farmers and growers, so there there is an abundance of opportunity for all. It is estimated that more than 40% of Namibians are engaged in agriculture activities full time.

The Community, small to medium business solution:

One of the areas we focussed on was to develop an Namibianized Hydroponic systems and solutions that can be operated anywhere in Namibia, using the absolute minimum of resources, while producing fresh produce for food and or job creation. 

Enabling these technologies at low cost and with dependable yields was the challenge and this have been successfully overcome.

There are various models to choose from, taking into account who the groups are, what their vision is regarding being sustainable growers or shareholders in their own company to produce and distribute selected crops. 

Nothing should be available for free and all the activities are to be self funded with the benefit of receiving training and ensuring access to a market for the produce. 

Additional options are for the establishment of growers networks, once the minimum standards are in place.

Creating wealth is hard work over a long period that requires patients and team work and these skills can be taught and managed once entrepreneurs take ownership of their futures. By training, re-training and making the growers build there own operation it will ensure that these communities will benefit from having practical experience in growing, building and maintenance. Depending on the size and market for a operation, these communities or operators will have access to funds to develop new businesses or ensuring social benefits for their local groups.

The same technology can be used in draught disaster situations to feed people and animals and ensure water management practises.

This ownership model can be applied on a National level, giving each Namibian ownership and profit share opportunities in these units as a owner, investor or share holder. Future Namibians will inherit running concerns and with the right mind set and structure this continuity can be managed to ensure generations of self sufficient producers in Namibia.

The model will work on a Centralised (Grid connected) and Decentralised application, depending on scale and crop type. With far distances between towns and communities of which many are small in Namibia, the required transmission lines and capital expenditure with a extremely low rate of return for the Utility company can be overcome with the Decentralised model. The technology solutions can add value to the surrounding village or community in the supply of electricity and water from the growing operation.

Where Infrastructure is available and location, land size and investment is available a Centralised farming unit can successfully be set up. It is always advised that back up systems are available for centralised applications as untimely power outages can be detrimental to a grow cycle.

The first practical steps to evaluate whether produce growing can be feasible at a specific location:

1. Access to water and preferably a sustainable source

2. Access to land large enough for the specific output and suitable for application. Soil crops versus hydroponic crops.

3. Access to labour during the building phase and operational phase.

4. Access to funds to develop and operate the unit or units.

A unit is a Agricultural farm with Greenhouses and/or open field activities, it has a water purification facility(mostly required in Namibia) to produce water fit for purpose (agriculture or potable) and comes with a solar power generation plant.

These plants can supply electricity for the agriculture unit as well as local communities as mentioned earlier and where scale allows with storage.

When its a small rural unit, the agricultural part will supply food to the local community while creating a few sustainable and needed jobs while educating with the learn while doing teaching model. This way the knowledge and skills will organically spread throughout the country.

The power generation plant is totally reliant on the sun for its operations. Combined with Battery Energy Storage it can supply power in day and night time. The technology that’s applicable for each business unit will be different depending on scale and produce type.

The utopian idea as the business develops and is managed well is that this unit can act as an industrial hub for future industry, all powered by the sun, which can lead to green communities/towns. Charging local electric vehicles by way of this renewable energy method means zero emissions in energy production and in the actual driving of the vehicle.

The average time to construct a medium sized site is six months and it employs people with varied levels of skills. It is ideally suited for women wanting to go into business.

There are enough arable land and water available in Namibia for crops needed in the food industry (wheat, corn etc.) There are some logistic issues, however given the location of the land it is an issue that will be managed.

When dealing with perishable fresh produce the start is to utilise land that is unsuitable for any other use. Using arable land for soil crops in a sustainable way. With Hydroponic grow operations that are located as close to market as possible on unused un-arable land it will ensure quality food, shorter logistics chains and lower costs while not taking up space for other required land uses.

Afritree’s Sustainable Hydroponic Model:

  1. Support mainly local suppliers
  2. Not priority to own land
  3. Is scalable: Urban to mega farm
  4. Is adaptable to different crops
  5. Is able to accept Aquaponics into the system (Weather dependent)
  6. Is profitable
  7. Is sustainable and accept renewables
  8. Create Namibian jobs
  9. Offers Training  
  10. 10.Does not require any arable soil, can be done anywhere!

Large Scale Greenhouses

Afritree completed a three year research project to experience at first hand how weather, economy, local market trends, labour and crop types all worked together in this unique desert area. We determined best practise for the crop types that will work with specific systems in the desert areas of Namibia. These grow systems will work in any Namibian micro climate to produce similar crops by utilising the technologies identified.

There are tremendous opportunities available for any Namibian willing to invest and work in Agriculture and Horticulture. The caveat is that technology and best practise needs to be followed without which all efforts will account to zero.

The use of greenhouse technology needs to be promoted in Namibia. Afritree has made it one if its goals to introduce and develop the greenhouse industry. Previous objections against Greenhouses that were based on high set up and operational costs are now no longer valid as the higher price of importing produce and efficient growing methods are making a strong business case. Growers are not farmers. Horticulturists don’t focus on animals, the same way farmers who are involved in animal husbandry should focus on their sector. The biggest mistake growers and farmers make is that off being bigger brings more income, which could not being further form the truth. Being lean and mean and totally focussed on specific production is what enables success.

As an example, as a grower it is sometimes better to grow four cycles a year and not push for five cycles. Its all about looking at the market, labour & available resources, in a sense managing your risks vs reward and how these actions will impact the following years planning. Our Horticulture systems operate and produce 365 days a year and enables precise planning and higher yields possible in the field, while using less water and other resources.

Our work will have an affect on greening the Namibian coast and desert with plantations of trees, grasses and shrubs.

It is no longer the size of the farm land that counts! Its the productivity and integrated approach that ensures successful produce production.

Waste streams

The common denominator of all agricultural activities that will drive the Bio Economy is waste. How we source, manage and provide value add to waste streams is key in establishing new and exciting business units. It is important to note that waste generally is not recycled and end up as compost or landfill when managed. Other non managed waste streams end up in the ocean, rivers and on land. Clearly disposing of products that can be used for second life products should be stopped.

Gas as an example: is an un-utilised by product in Namibia. With natural animal and bio mass waste the use of Anaerobic digestion should be encouraged to be produce bio gas used for heating, cooling, industry or cooking.

Fertiliser, Minerals, Compost, Food, Energy, Water, Fabrics, Packaging, Pharma, Bio Polymer ,Beauty products are all by products of waste streams that are viable in a Bio economy.

Waste streams are also applicable to water brine and reclaiming minerals, salts and compostable materials are part of a zero discharge future.

The new technology that needs to be phased in is Energy from Waste, whereby landfill sites can be “cleaned” for energy production. This together with recycling, value add and less waste generation from operations will eventually lead to a zero waste situation, and that is the doable game changer for now and future generations.

Agriculture is key to enabling these technologies in order to drive the circular bio economy model.

by Willem Baartman

The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 6

 

 Transport

The world is seeing an accelerated move away from traditional fossil fuelled transport applications. Most developed countries are banning internal combustion engines from 2020-2050 and most major cities have already started to ban internal combustion vehicles.

For a developing nation such as Namibia this means one thing, that the country will be seen as a dumping ground for internal combustion engine vehicles in the foreseeable future. Without proactive policies and investments into the electric transport space, Namibia will face risks of Carbon penalties and being costed out of international trade. 

It is further seen that developing countries are not as focussed on environmental management practices when it comes to their transport sectors. The reasons are varied, however fears for loss of jobs and escalating operational costs in this sector are part of this phenomenon.

It is important to note that the change over to electric vehicles will take about 50-60 years. Some sectors such as light passenger to heavy commercial vehicles will show the fastest adoption, however the market place for ICE vehicles and service stations will continue long into the future. The opportunity lies within the process and how new skills are developed to grow jobs and opportunities.

At first glance low priced used vehicles may sound attractive, however no amount of carbon tax can and will stop the damage these vehicles are doing to our environment. Short term mentality needs to be replaced by long term vision.

Furthermore it must be made clear that Namibia has no yearly roadworthy MOT system in place to test vehicles in order to measure their exhaust gasses and as such these high polluters continue to operate on our roads. It’s lack of focus such as this that is keeping Namibia from leading the African pack. Namibia is however actively involved in ensuring The Paris Climate Agreement requirements are met, however our data and as shown focus is not on changing our behaviour, rather reporting on it.

Our Namibian transport network consists of:

  • Planes (Regional & International),
  • Trains (Regional & International), 
  • Marine (Sea and Freshwater), 
  • Light Passenger,
  • Construction & Industry (Forklifts & Machines), 
  • Busses (Local & Regional)
  • Light, medium and heavy commercial

Additional polluters are power generation and the burning Liquid petroleum gas.

The Way forward for an Electric Transport Future is not based on if and when, it is happening now and should be treated as a current change!

First of all to be competitive from a pricing point on the world stage Namibia needs to produce power in the future for not more than N$0.30/kW/h.

Why would this be important? It will enable us to compete for manufacturing and value add commercial activities internationally. With Namibia’s current over 30% unemployment rate its key for all economic and social development plans.

The important factor towards transport is at a retail price of N$0.50/kW/h – N$1.00/kWh for electricity. This will cause our transport costs to be considerably lower and sustainable than the current situation with the added benefit of being sensitive to the environment irrespective of our long distances driven as a result of Namibia’s far off boundaries.

Fossil fuelled- and Nuclear electricity generation are now more expensive than renewable energy and the costs associated with a centralised power generation and the distribution network is not viable for Namibia with our low population and large areas to be serviced.

The solutions is clear and it lies within Renewable energy generation and storage that are both Centralised and Decentralised.

The cost difference of an average passenger vehicle when an Electric Vehicle is compared to a fossil fuelled vehicle in relation to cost of km brings out the potential operating cost of ownership which will only get better as the base price of EV models become more affordable.

The current operational savings are substantial. A Normal passenger class EV such as an Hyundai Kona 64kWh does 8.2km/kWh @ N$2.41/kWh = 0.29 N$/km and a frugal ICE 12km/L = N$1.13/km. If you manage a fleet these type of figures should make you want to re evaluate your current fleet solutions.

The relative savings with medium to Heavy vehicles are exponentially higher, making their case to strong to dismiss at any level. This total cost of ownership has passed the tipping point and will continue to offer increased value.

The future of transport is electric and autonomous. Most countries are starting to ban internal combustion engined vehicles with most setting 2040 as their last year of allowing sales. Volkswagen announced that the company will seize ICE development in 2026, except unfortunately for Africa? 

The 2040 timeline offers Namibia 21 year to prepare. If we look back at the time changes took over the past 28 years then we have a problem. When you add 2026 to the mix its only 7 years from now, then it becomes apparent that the opportunity is now.

Our economy is fossil fuelled and moving away from that will cause economic losses for some. Namibia does not have an periodic CO2 and roadworthy testing program for vehicles. Pollutants are not seen as an issue, although our vehicles are polluting more than their counter part as say in Europe where testing is done. Why have nothing been done? Namibia like many other African countries will become the dumping ground of every type of used vehicle, which will continue the fossil cycle for many years to come, with no focus on actual pollutants, our environment and people will suffer not only from poor air quality but also financially from carbon taxes.

Electric vehicle solutions are up and running across the globe with proven lower cost of ownership when compared to fossil vehicles. Zero emissions, generally safer vehicles and just as practical with equal range and features makes a compelling argument for their uptake.

There is a zero probability that this disruptive change will not happen in Namibia and Africa. Namibia is in a enviable position as it is a small country when looking at its vehicle, truck and train fleets. The changes needed can be done in a short time frame, giving Namibia the enviable position as a world and African leader in this field. Now factor in the new skills, infrastructure and cost benefits and the decision is a no brainer and policy makers should push to establish the right environment to enable this transition without delay.

The new electric powered transport market will be focussed on autonomy, car sharing and other mobility services that don’t currently exist. Remember vehicles are now part of Moores law and as such will only developed faster and faster.

Convergence of technologies and open source drives and expedite change. Its this tip over point that will surprise and catch out governments and consumers alike.

Current private vehicles are used 4% of their total life time and its the second most expensive investment a consumer will make. Together with poor asset utilisation and the potential savings offered with new business models will drive further uptake for change.

When full autonomy is available and the car share model is the norm then the total new vehicle market is estimated to fall with 70%. This will change how cities are planned as less parking will be required, financial institutions will no longer have vehicle volume to finance and many current income streams from industry and government will be affected. There are equally many new opportunities that are not available now that will come forward. 

It is also interesting to note that vehicle use with the pay as you go car share model will be only 10% of normal vehicle ownership costs. Additionally as renewables take over for electricity production, consumers will receive a 60% reduction in cost. These are just two examples where consumers will save money and there are many such examples. The point being that cash flow for private, industry and government could be positively affected. Enabling spending on health, education and other areas currently under pressure from disproportionate high transport and energy costs in Namibia.

There are many resources, however the writer and lecturer Tony Seba has published a book about disruptive technologies that is well worth the read with details about past and future changes in technology.

As a final thought about the transport space, Transnamib, Namibia’s rail operator should invest in Hybrid locomotive upgrades to its fleet as the company is planning to refurbish its entire fleet over the next few years and should only purchase cleaner hybrid tech thereafter. Its an more affordable and sustainable money saving step that will set the tone within the Namibian government. Its unclear why Namibia has not fully embraced renewables, but the opportunity is there for the leaders to stand up and take charge of this all important environmental issue.

The technology is available and its not waiting around for Namibia and Africa to one day decide to become participants. There are challenges, negatives and positives in this process. Its our choice to get acquainted and start the conversation or not.

The times we are living in are historically the best times to be a human on earth. There are opportunities, money and abundance. These things are not equally divided, yet its there for anyone to attain. We should use this technology advanced and relative well off time to enable a better tomorrow. Once the earth is gone its gone and its this generation that will decide the timeline.

by Willem Baartman

The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 5

 

Energy

Background

Namibia has PV solar, hydro, coal and diesel electricity generation capacity. Our biggest drawback is cost of electricity, as around 60% of our electricity is currently being imported at high cost and together with high mark ups results in some of the most expensive electricity tariffs in the world.

As an developing nation we need electricity generation and financial viable distribution infrastructure. A large percentage of the income generated by Nampower is going towards infrastructure development and maintenance. 

It is impossible for the foreseeable future for Nampower to build all the electricity generating scale needed in the relatively short required time frame. Co-operation will be required with energy sector investors to move away from fossil fuelled electricity and dependancy on imported electricity.

This potential shift towards renewable electricity creates an opportunity for cost reduction and renewable electricity systems to take centre stage.

Our Namibian governing structures for Electricity generation and supply consists of the 

Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Electricity Control Board, Nampower and the RED’s (Regional Electricity Distributors).

The Electricity Control Board is driving the National Renewable Energy Policy that has a target of 70% Renewables by 2030 and connecting 50% of the population with electricity access.

Nampower is tasked with assisting the National Development Plan 5 & Harambee by focussing on clean power (renewables) for industry growth, job creation, health and education. 

During 2016 Nampower paid an average of 83.43 cents per kWh with a internal target price of 114,37 cents per kWh and retailed it for an average price of 129,73 cents/kWh, until the end of June 2016 with an yearly average ended retail price of 134,60 cents kW/h. For 2017 there is an decrease in the cost of electricity, however the Nampower audited statements does not disclose from which price point this was calculated.

In 2016 Nampower paid Eskom one of its suppliers N$2,6 Billion and it would be beneficial to know how much transmission losses there were given the distances of these lines.

Ongoing consumer growth was expected to be 9.5% per year, however for the last two years its been 3,6 and 3,7% respectively. With new Industry and developments planned (The extend of these new industry requirements are unclear at the time of writing) an significant increase can be expected over the following two years 2018-2019.

The Xaris 120-240 MW project has been scrapped which would of had a cost of N$7,6 billion and the capacity replacement has yet to be communicated.

We therefore have installed capacity of 1,093MW/year and Nampower puts 4,505 units into the system and sells 4,008 GWh as in 2016.

The question is what are being done for Namibia to reach the 2018 and 2030 targets?

* The net metering policy and IPP’s and not much else are being communicated.

With one of the highest cost per kWh in the world it’s not a good place to be, regardless of any other economic activity. Many countries are offering excess electricity at discounted rates even free at certain times to stimulate industry, so for Namibia this will be a hard road to forge out.

There are many Environmental Players in Namibia, offering access to funds and skills, especially in the renewable sector. Whether policy and actual economic activity is aligned is up for debate as for the foreseeable future it will be business as its expensive and polluting usual.

The Namibian Electricity Control Board has published the current electricity cost structure for electricity in 2018. The General Tariff is et at N$1,28 + Transmission N$ 0,41 + Distribution N$0,55 = Average retail tariff N$2,41.kWh

What are our options?

Scrap all future investments in fossil and nuclear energy and take a look at decentralised rural models while using existing and renewable technology side by side until a complete changeover to renewables are possible.

Create a marketplace to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, solar electricity installations, solar hot water generation and solar cooking in all sectors with grants and or assisted loans.

Hot water, potable water, agriculture water and electricity production can be combined for decentralised needs and applications.

The main renewable technology currently being used is Photovoltaic panels to generate electricity with hardly any Namibian installations adopting battery storage with only direct feed into the grid while producing electricity during day time. The new wind generation facility also does not have any storage capacity.

This direct feed is an major issue for our grid as high peak usage is normally when the sun doesn’t shine and balancing of the grid can only be done with day before purchases from other countries and our own generating capacity.

It certainly looks like our two tier pricing model can either include a third level and/or start to look at storage as to keep supply and pricing in a available and cost effective state.

A disadvantage of PV solar is that the units generally lasts for 10-20 years and wind power turbines 25 years. A longer lasting investment option needs to be looked at in addition to these technologies.

The future electricity solution for Namibia lies in the sun as well, its called Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) with Thermal Energy Storage to be precise. These systems are robust and have generally a long life expectancy with the added benefit that these systems store energy in the from of heat that can be converted into electricity even after sunset.

Additional advantages of this technology includes heating, cooling and potable water desalination which can all be incorporated.

Depending on the system it can be used for small to large buildings and far off located communities- Fresnel reflectors and Stirling dishes and for large utility scale applications Parabolic troughs and/or Tower reflectors.

Never has Namibia been is such a advantages position with our high sun radiation and barren landscapes to produce electricity for local consumption and export.

Construction of these plants are coming down in price however for an direct comparison with the cancelled Xaris 240 MW plant it is interesting to note that its cost were to be N$7,6 billion, no mention has been made of the fuel and operational costs, nor the emissions. In South Africa there are a few CSP plants operational, two of these have an combined output of 200MW Kaxu and Xina and are on approximately 630 hectares in the Northern Cape. The local community is a part owner with partners Eskom and the Builder/operator. 

Each site was developed for US$860 and US$880 million. Both have energy storage capacity and low operating costs with zero emissions. Costs have come down since 2016 and are dropping which should drive feasibility for Namibian implementation in the foreseeable future.

Value Chain

By making electricity cheaper the Government and Namibians in either private or industry consumers will save direct electricity costs which will create more value in Namibia. Namibia’s electricity costs must have a maximum wholesale value of 30 to 40 Namibia cents/kWh in order to be competitive on the word scale. This is important for future development and new emerging opportunities that require energy to drive the future. The current solar project tenders are costed at 2-16 cents US per kWh depending on technology size and location.

Trade and Industry, Mines and Energy, Environment and Tourism, Works and Science and Technology are all government ministries that will benefit directly and or indirectly from the uptake of electrification of our Transport industry and adoption of Solar Power.

New infrastructure, charging networks, transport solutions (both public and private), data centres, rural electrification, construction (low cost housing and all building construction projects), small-large scale agriculture and future electricity needs can all be catered for in an economically, sustainable and renewable way. Additionally rural communities can benefit from job creation and disadvantaged groups can benefit financially from part ownership in these developments.

Practical examples of positive change:

Building Industry; solar roofing, electricity, heating and cooling 

Construction and commercial; equipment and machinery, solar panel, CSP systems

Charging Network; private, business, government, public

Public transport; Trains, Busses and Taxis

Agriculture; equipment and machinery and closer to market

Tools and battery manufacturing as well as recycling

Conversion industry 

Civil; pumps and street lights

Communications, internet and communications access to rural areas

Production of equipment and services

Freight, Truck and Train Transport

Aviation vehicles

Tourism; vehicles and lodging (ATV’s game viewing etc), electric bikes, sightseeing vehicles

Marine industry

Mining vehicles and equipment

Decentralised power generation, replacing fossil fuelled generators.

Nampower cost savings on decentralized options

Namwater sufficient and economical water supply from sea and or aquifers.

Government fleet costs and operational budget savings (cooling and heating)

The biggest positive social factor is employment and skills development opportunities

Foreign investment, to utilize lower electricity costs and our stable political climate.

What do we need to make this happen?

Access to finance, technology partners and the Namibian labour force.

Namibia needs to offer the community where these power plants are to be run a share of the business, creating jobs and wealth for these communities.

Additionally each power plant must incorporate a data centre and/or agriculture facility to further encourage foreign investment and securing food security.

The opportunities within Renewable energy far outweigh any opportunities offered by fossil burning electricity generation.

The current electrical supply in Namibia is primary imported from neighbouring countries. This situation causes electricity to be disproportionately more expensive than that of the competitive neighbouring countries. For the Namibian economy to become truly competitive it needs to have access to cheap electricity when and where it is required. Expensive distribution lines are not the solution and disruptive new ways of generating and storing electricity is required for Namibian business and it’s economy to become effective from a cost perspective when competing on the world stage.

The good news is that the technology and systems are commercially available now to ensure that Namibia can have access to low cost uninterrupted electricity. The mind shift required to move in this direction has been restricted for an extended period of time. It’s therefore unacceptable that Namibia is in the situation it is. 

The private sector will be able to solve the issues, with the Namibian government, however the government and its stakeholders need to set policy that will enable co-operation. Off utmost importance is to ensure that all economic activities needs to focus on empowering Namibians and not offer foreign players undue local economic benefit.

The future

The truth that we need to focus on is the balance within nature. Burning anything that grows will generally be part of the carbon cycle and not damage the climate. Burning anything else such as fossil fuels which are not in sync with the carbon cycle will play a negative role towards earth’s the climate issues.

Using the sun which is a thermal nuclear reactor that is dependable and free should be at the forefront of all electricity, transport, agriculture, water and economic developments. 

Solar installations on roofs of buildings are already cheaper options than grid connected options in Namibia. 78% of Customers that have solar installations should save money from day 1 (Sungevity 2012).

Decentralised communities that are using Kerosene are paying US$ 2/kWh while they can pay US 10 cents/kWh going solar?

In the world the cost of solar has passed nuclear as the cheapest option yet electricity retail cost are still going up? In Germany solar is driving power costs down by 40% since 2012.

There is no educated nor practical reason why Namibia should continue importing electricity and expose its consumers to rising prices. Its totally counter productive to the development goals set for Namibia as a country and needs an immediate policy for implementation. 

The final thought about electricity is the fact that PV generation with battery storage is cheaper than any old school generation and distribution model! Its the number one disruptive technology innovation that requires an equally disruptive and innovative new Business model. Good thing is we don’t have to work it out, everything needed has already been paid for, we can leapfrog right into an renewable solution.

If there is one concept to think about and potentially do something about its this, why does Namibia and Namibians not all go the PV and battery storage route? Its cheaper and ensures availability to every household and business irrespective of location? Why would you continue to drive a expensive centralised distribution model?

by Willem Baartman

The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 4

 

Water 

How to feed the world without degrading land and water resources, eroding biodiversity and contributing to climate change is among the greatest challenges of our times. FAO

With limited resources comes greater responsibility to look after those value resources. Putting proper management systems in place, ensuring quotas for output in relation to use. Offering people potable water at a affordable price where they live is probably the biggest issue in Namibia. Agriculture water use is a luxury in certain circumstances and is a problem that need to be looked at each step of the way.

It is estimated that a third of the world’s population use groundwater. Whether all if it are renewable is unknown, however it demonstrates where we are and what the future trends will be. 

Desalination technologies are available for small and large scale plants, using solar or conventional electricity, to serve small communities with ground water purification to large seawater desalination solutions. The only environmental negative about desalination is the waste water management issue, called brine that the process produces. There are solutions coming to the front that produces commercial salt and other extraction methods for minerals that should lead to zero brine. These solutions come at a high cost, however as with all technology will become more affordable and thereby offering financially viable water treatment at any scale. Replacing groundwater used should be a key driver when resources are utilised for agriculture and or human consumption.

The lack of detailed information about water usage and groundwater levels makes it difficult to develop a clear water management plan. It is foreseen that this situation will change as trusted data sources becoming available. While all data streams are being developed accurate extraction can be measured nationally with real time processes.

Water capturing from fog and rain holds promise for coastal and rural applications. Municipalities are behind on water treatment technologies and many are without drainage systems causing a significant loss due to run off. Natural storage basins and capture areas need to be determined. 

An example of using applicable technology in a financially viable way for water storage: The northern region of Namibia you find natural small dams called Oshana’s. These can be converted to a affordable water storage systems with some construction to stop leakage and evaporation.

Hydroponics address some of the water usage issues as the water can be re-used when filtered. Additionally precise water consumption can be monitored per plant. Generally hydroponics use 10% of soil water requirements. One kilogram tomatoes grown hydroponically will use 20 litres of water and in soil it will be at least 60 litres.

The data obtained from NASA shows that Namibia’s groundwater reservoirs are still not stressed when compared to the UAE and other Northern African countries. This offers Namibia an advantage that by managing this resource in conjunction with sea water desalination efforts, Namibia should never experience total draught devastation scenarios. The biggest risks for draught are animal based where the wrong farming methods are used due to culture and lack of knowledge. This causes losses in livestock and severe degradation of the soil.

The end result of water for agriculture and in particular Horticulture is that the cost of water after being pumped, filtered and delivered to the place of consumption needs to be in the N$3.00-N$9.00 per cube (1,000 litres) price range to make large scale hydroponic growing profitable. This is the challenge more so than any other variable including energy. If water costs are above N$12.00 per cubic than there is very little opportunity in growing profitability and is more suited for own consumption communities and families. These costs take into account everything needed including maintenance and filtering costs.

by Willem Baartman

The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 3

What we learned

The Namib desert is not the oldest desert in the world without reason. Large Temperature and humidity swings in remarkable short spaces of time, periodic high speed and dry winds, known as East winds and the always present high radiation of the sun. 

The task to grow commercial viable produce in the Namib desert at an economic viable cost in a predictive and repeatable manner is not something everyone should attempt. It is very hard and unforgiving work in inhospitable circumstances with nowhere to hide from the heat and that extraordinary sun. Afritree did indeed take on the desert challenge and has identified and tested successful methods of growing various produce types in the Namib desert that are manageable and a rewarding experience. 

After studying Horticulture, technology, and other fields for years, doing experiments at home, a basic model (methodology) was developed to drive the research element. The actual lessons learned about grow mediums, seed and crop types, pests, labour skills and crop enclosure types have been harder and sometimes downright impossible to manage than what was initially thought. 

The end results however are so promising that we envisage the Horticulture industry to become an reasonable sized economic activity in the Erongo region in the next couple of years and beyond. This potential will become reality through constant focus on talent development, policy, technology implementation and new school entrepreneurs committing to the required vision for innovation and economic development..

With the initial research phase coming to an end and over a hundred plant types tested in just about every soil and hydroponic method, Afritree has identified best practises that are 1. easy on resources and financially viable or 2. Higher cost specialised applications that are pushing technology solutions. The road to this point as touched on before had its challenges and fortunately so, as we can now deliver great value to the Namibian Horticulture space that did not exist before. Additionally many people have seen our work and we have assisted many potential growers with the hope that our efforts at worst will be copied as inspiration for the sector is an important part of what we do.

Solutions for the Erongo Region, Namibia and beyond as being researched, studied and developed by Afritree:

  1. Bio-economy model adaptable for specific context (Access to resources)
  2. Hydroponic grow methods that are not soil dependant
  3. Renewable electricity for off grid applications
  4. Food security in dry climates
  5. Greening of desert areas
  6. Saline water crops
  7. CO2 savings in transport and food production
  8. Water management and Zero waste solutions
  9. Improved Health by means of better diet
  10. Sustainable employment 
  11. Erongo Region potential for large scale Horticulture, crops, animal husbandry and aquaculture.
  12. The Fit of these opportunities with future UN requirements(SDG) and Namibia’s Development plans

The next phase for Afritree is for a large scale commercial production facility to further proof the concepts at scale and produce enough food and waste to start using those materials for value add as well as incorporate sustainable technologies into the mix . The end result will be the first Namibian totally decentralised Horticulture produce facility that is totally off grid using only the sea, sun and waste land to produce world class fresh produce and other valuable products.

It is through the showcasing of large technological advanced projects that are successful in their applications that we will better enable acceptance towards National uptake of the technologies and assist with policy, governance and market development. It is impossible for our team to do everything needed within this space and its also against our philosophy to ring fence opportunities as we set out right from the start to create opportunities for everyone in Namibia that are able to take ownership for business units in supporting the bigger picture.

By Willem Baartman

The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 2

The Solution

The only acceptable solution for any agriculture activity is the one where global environmental impact is absent. A Zero carbon footprint and the most resource sensitive processes that are both sustainable and renewable must be at the core of all activities.

What can be done to offset the economic risks and create value chains within Namibia’s borders that will not only create jobs, but also ensure positive outcomes in relation to affordable, locally available and high quality manufactured goods, food and fresh produce? The same question is relevant for water management, energy generation and sustainable transport solutions.

The answer lies in the European model off a Circular Bio based economy. Given the state of affairs of the local economy, Namibia can not develop a program that is as time intensive as the European model, however if we start at the bottom, do the little things well and profitable, our economy will eventually flourish at our particular scale. 

Asking for assistance from our neighbour countries for their buy in will not only benefit their economies, it will create regional opportunities. The issue here is that those countries are dealing with the same issues as Namibia and their thought processes and policies may delay on the ground developments. Talking is no longer enough, actions are needed to show the way and inspire and here Namibia has a once in a lifetime opportunity to guide Africa. Being a small country in relation to number of people and industry, has huge positive benefits when it comes to instigating change and new developments.

By seeing the Namibian economy as one organism that produces and consumes for its own needs and export markets with no waste and no negative impact on its environment in a sustainable and renewable fashion, you are seeing a Circular Bio based economy. When all countries eventually operate in this way, humans will start to fix that which we have broken on our planet, or at the very least ensure our survival in a changing climate.

Given Namibia’s unique set of circumstances, the Circular Bio Based Economic model proposed will differ from larger countries and economies. Namibia will utilise best practise to offset research and start up costs from European and commonwealth partners. The specific technology used will either be Regional or National depending on the climate, resources and availability of human capital. There are many advantages to leap frogging certain older technologies in securing up to date and proven solutions tailored for Namibia.

This proposed Circular Bio Based Economy model has been researched with both practical and academic focus to offer immediate implementation possibilities. 

The Namibian economy has established economic pillars such as Agriculture, Mining, Tourism and others. These entities are removed from one another by means of different policies, governance and importance. By integrating the existing economy into the new model the separate pillars will change more into interlinked areas as each pillar will play a role in supporting the next economic entity in supporting the economic system.

Agriculture and in particular Horticulture, water, energy, transport, education and finance sectors are the key drivers for implementing the changes needed to enable a Namibian version of a Circular Bio Based Economy.

By Willem Baartman

The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 1

Without the availability of affordable food, water and electricity no economy will prosper.

The world’s energy needs keep on growing, agriculture land and practises are becoming environmental and political issues, water scarcity is a real problem, job creation is not keeping up with demand and resources to power industry and the transport sectors are damaging the environment and people’s health.

Basically everything that was done before to feed, power, move and create wealth had an negative impact on earth and the future of mankind.

Why did this happen? Humans are the only species that have the ability to alter their environment through science and technology in order to survive and we have used whatever technology available at that time to drive this process. There was and still is amongst us humans with little regard and knowledge about how our actions impact earth.

Terms like green, sustainable, renewable, global warming, CO2 emissions, greenhouse effect and climate change are commonplace in our daily lives. Not without reason.

Then there is the economy, micro and macro. Can’t have the one without the other! A car manufacturer has to manufacture cars and sell them to make money to make more and so on. Banks have to borrow and lend money to make money. Governments have to use their labour force to create wealth, generate tax to make money to pay debt and secure loans for economy & infrastructure development.

You have to work to earn money to buy the things you need and thus fit into this system of making money.

Where does the environment fit into this seemingly endless circle? Until recently, the earth did not feature at all, resources were used to produce and nothing was put back with recycling or even prevention. Pollutants were discarded without care, into the atmosphere, sea, groundwater, landfills and soil.

The truth is that looking after the environment costs a lot of money as we have to adopt different ways of doing things in a structure that was not set up for this purpose! The main reason is that our economic system developed separately over the years from environmental management due to our lack of knowledge. We are therefore dependant on fossil fuels, monoculture agriculture, money and higher power to rule our lives.

So the question is how do we get out of this mess we created for ourselves over hundreds of years? The answer is simple; with great difficulty!

Imagine being addicted to a substance or way of living and trying to give it up? Coffee, sugar, your car, electricity, fast food and all your money? It’s not going to happen unless you are forced.

Mother Earth has given us a few warnings now, we are actually now being forced to change, whether you know it or not.

Chances are most humans will lose everything and end up somewhere without anything to eat or drink in the next few years if you and the rest of the world don’t change your consumption and behaviour! Rising sea levels will alone account for most of this damage.

Imagine not being able to afford food or have no access to water? The most basic needs. There are already millions of people there. You are just on a little longer curve, given the issues at hand.

These are the realities and no matter how many times we clean beaches, plant trees, recycle and sit at night by our LED light bulbs, we humans can not undo what has been done. We can merely stem the tide, because what is going to happen will, as we have passed the tipping point.

Some will say, that what’s the use then? Purely survival of the human species is the answer. You read daily of how many species are going extinct, humans fall under that category as well, just another species that inhabit earth with all the inherent shortcomings of life.

The point being made is straightforward, we need to change in order to survive.

What is being done?

The United Nations has set out guidelines for Government’s across the globe on what parameters they should adhere to and or change to in order to keep our climate from warming up to quickly. These guidelines and access to funding is monitored by a scoring system that determines how successful a country is by playing its part. The USA famously opted out of the Paris Climate agreement, a decision that will come back and haunt them, very soon.

The Renewable Electricity generating energy market is growing, doubling its output every year, to make us less dependant on fossil and nuclear fuels. It is important to note that we need another 20 to 30 years to draw level with the existing energy generators through renewables. We are locked into industry and no 100% renewable solution can be implemented immediately and that is why the speed with which we respond is of utmost importance.

The Electric transport sector is growing and the electric passenger vehicle market is currently about 1% of the total market but set to grow. Some EV friendly countries are beginning to show 3% market share every month. This sector will take many years to draw level without the outright banning of internal combustion engines (ICE). This is starting to happen with 2030-2040 seen as the decade of the electric vehicle, with most countries banning ICE vehicles outright from 2040, and most cities are starting this ban between now and 2025. This sector cover automobiles, trains, trucks, busses and soon planes!

Food and Water production can not keep up with demand with Agriculture using the majority of water and land available. Agriculture is also the number one polluter of underground water, rivers and soil and the cause of more CO2 emissions that all the transport sectors of all the countries in the world. Clearly something needs to be done here! The truth is that we need to produce 50% more food by 2050 with less resources, just to put the problem into perspective.

The financial systems that is powering our industry, growth and well being is no longer sustainable, growth is no longer available in the traditional sense. Funds availability to those who need it is just not possible and prices and actual income differences have not kept pace over the years. It is purely a result of how the system was set up and work, nothing can change its inherent mechanisms, except a move away from the structure completely. Patching economies with stimulus plans have proved ineffective, further boosting the argument for a rethink of capitalism and the economic tools available for the future.

The future is not a case of business as usual, it’s frighteningly unsure, however this situation can bring the best out of us humans, to find solutions, stand together and bring harmony back into our relationship with our planet.

As mentioned earlier, the world is going through economic and social turmoil and its is spilling over everything that is negative into the Namibian market. Gone are the days of extended periods of time regarding price stability in retail and wholesale markets, which are of particular importance to the Namibian economy. 

Exchange rate and commodity price risks are further adding to a dire future outlook for the Namibian economy and its inhabitants. Banks are not assisting with outdated lending policies and the legal systems is equally failing the entrepreneurs in Namibia with to much importance on their exuberant fees than the actual truth or service that should be offered. 

There is way too much short term views out there with hardly anyone thinking about twenty to a hundred years into the future. Our Thinking it seems are at most capable of thinking four years into the future. The rest it seems is just too difficult to imagine.

Namibia’s problems are the results of Namibians not thinking clearly and acting in their own interests in stead of that of Namibia. Selling all your raw materials without any local processing is a case in point.

This paper will address a set of solutions based on Horticulture, Water, Energy and Transport technologies with related value added services that are not currently available locally. The social and financial implications of this model will have positive affects on every single facet of the Namibian economy, however the true benefits are there for the generations to come. 

We, Namibia as a nation will only be independent when we can feed and power ourselves and that is why the author loves the Growth at Home strategy!

by Willem Baartman

The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 8

 

Finance.

Let’s start at the end as this economic activity is where the buck stops literally. In order for our current financial systems to survive, it needs money to circulate. Money from transactions, investments and loans. We can not abolish this old system as it is what make everything we do possible, so we need to help it and the process should benefit the masses and environment to make it sustainable.

The author has two proposals that can be debated, but first ask yourself, what is interest and what is an exchange rate?

Why is it that in developed countries you pay close to 0% interest and why is it that developed countries always have a higher exchange rate value than a developing country?

Interest is the mechanism by which a government can encourage or limit spending and goes hand in hand with the printing of money. The printing of money bit is a balancing act between over and under valuing of your currency, a problem the USA now faces. So what is it and why the difference between countries? 

Developing countries don’t have the money required to build infrastructure nor do they have the expertise to compete with larger more developed countries. Loans are therefore granted for such development, which are administered by the World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund). There are many other Banks that we(Namibia) have loans with, for example the loans made by our Namibian utilities.

For the sake of keeping things simple the author is just commenting on two entities to illustrate the point. The Bank of Namibia is therefore a client of the World Bank and IMF. Loans are repaid at set interest levels with regards to ratings obtained from ratings agencies that take into account the asset values offered and general economic system being utilised by a country. Therefore foreign currency and any outside loans cost the Bank of Namibia a certain amount/rate and the repo rate is calculated on top of that in order to make a profit and service the loans.

The movement of currencies, for instance a tourist in Namibia wishes to exchange US dollars for Namibian dollars works on the same principle as normal business as its based on availability and demand. The more a currency is traded the more valuable it becomes as there are more demand for it. Our central bank has to buy US dollars(or other specific accepted currencies) when they pay loans, the Namibian Dollar is not an accepted currency for these transactions, nor many others and this attracts a cost factor. Since there are millions of transactions everyday a willing seller will offer US Dollars at a given rate and it’s up to the buyer to decide who to buy from and that is exchange control. 

There have been many banks involved in price fixing over the years, however that’s for another day.

That is why imported goods into Namibia can only be costed on the bill of lading when handed in at its receiving authority, given that day’s exchange rate. This causes problems when exchange rates go higher than anticipated and sometimes it benefits Namibian exporters in the same scenario. 

The influence of oil on the Rand to which the Namibian dollar is pegged is another topic, well worth researching. Go do a analysis on the behaviour of the Rand vs the oil price and you will find that over the past two decades when oil’s cost went up the Rand’s exchange value went up and visa versa to mitigate the difference. Really a peculiar situation.

The Namibian dollar and South African Rand has run its course and a new alternative is needed to ensure a future financial system. The pegging of the N$ against the US$, Euro, Yuan or a combination of currencies is the only solution for our economy to create stability.

Namibia is part of world trade and Namibia and all African countries (All developing economies) need to look at this problem. The fluctuations not only causes price stability issues, it destroys value. South African politics have caused more harm to the Namibian economy in the past ten years than any affiliation with its currency can justify.

From the above it is clear that you have to loan money from a developed country with low interest charges and invest in in a developing country with higher interest earning opportunities. Then money will work for you! However this is not allowed for normal folk, only sovereign funds which are countries’ central bank mechanisms to trade in the open stock market., benefitting and also opening up to their potential losses.

In order to benefit normal folk as well the following two upcoming conversations are well worth a look;

  1. Blockchain and Crypto currencies

With the world taking notice of Cryptocurrencies it has been seen as a saviour and foe, however when you dig a little deeper you will see the underlying technology which is the blockchain. It’s the code based on numerical problems which to this day could not be hacked.

Now if the traditional way of printing, distributing and save guarding of physical money can be eradicated and replaced by a blockchain driven crypto currency that has the same value for every human on earth, all of a sudden there is a level playing field with great cost reductions, meaning less interest charges and less administration to name a few.

This can be done by the banks to keep the structure in place, while each of them may want their own coin for their identity, with the same value it could potentially make funds available to more people as there is less risk, such as exchange rates. The large bank groups in the world are there already, however in our Namibian context it is still a debatable issue at current.

An example of our human thought process. Say there are three humans left on earth and one decides that he/she is going to charge the other two 10% interest on all money he lends them and charge them money to deposit and withdraw while saying his/her money is worth twice as much as the other two’s money. The other two will them him to bugger off. Its that simple yet here we are.

2. Universal Basic income (Social upliftment scheme)

There are many ways to describe and implement these type of system.Here are two examples with the second already in place.

Each country has a tax system and a portion can go towards income for each individual of which a portion then goes back into the tax system, while the rest stimulates the economy. 

Canada has implemented a carbon tax system of $50.00 per ton CO2 which is paid by individuals and industry when buying fuel, etc. This tax is then used for environmental expenses and the positive balance is then re-distributed back to the private individuals in the country.

The current tax system is the cash flow that should cover all welfare expenses such as pension and medical which are normally budgeted for. Worldwide the tax system is used to create additional income for governments by raising VAT and other taxes such as fuel levies, etc, however when a government is part of the direct income of individuals with their needs it is a manageable system that will not hurt the poor. This system can even run on a blockchain, making it more cost effective and fair. As an example: Say Namibia stops all individual tax and raises VAT to 40%, then everyone pays tax and it will enable more cash flow through the system. With a less complicated tax system there are more savings for the government and so on.

It will take a combined effort to ensure a system like this can work and the reason it can work is that with Cryptocurrency we are back at a limited supply of money, thereby forcing pricing structures to change. There is no gold backing any money these days, only bits and bytes in cyberspace, that is managed by outdated crypto accounting security systems. The switch therefore is in essence only a click away.

Currently the only way a Government can control the economy is by interest rates and the printing of money. These control mechanism are not successful as proven in all economies. It creates uncertainty and benefit only the larger economies.

The biggest opponents against Universal Basic Income stems from the idea that it will make people lazy, however when you take a look at athletes who are supported by governments in order to focus on what they do without working and government grants for children it is in essence operational. Many countries have or are running pilot programs to determine how this UBI will pan out, even Namibia took part in a trial with the inhabitants of two villages in the North receiving a monthly income for a year. The findings over the period were less malnutrition amongst children and an increase in school attendance as well as a reduction in livestock theft and general crime.

With the uptake of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and other industry specific technologies the world will see 40% less traditional jobs due to them becoming obsolete. Since there is not enough open jobs to be filled by this 40% there will need to be some sort of intervention until parity is reached.

It is important to note that many people on earth are born into poverty and thus into welfare. These ideas should not be seen as to take away from one party to give to the next. These ideas are about how we can move forward together, acknowledging each others situation while contributing to the bigger picture which is the ultimate goal of ensuring an prosperous, sustainable in all areas and renewable future for Namibia.

The current financial system in Namibia does not cater for Namibian entrepreneurs. The people that have made it in Namibia are to few and their wealth is not on par with other first world countries. Therefore Angel investing, private equity and business incubators are not available to many.

The Commercial banks work only on assets and credit worthy entities. The Development Bank of Namibia is also a commercial bank and as such risk averse. When you are an entrepreneur and you have an money making idea, the truth is that without assets your financing options are every limited. Namibia should provide safe and available financing avenues for its entrepreneurs to allow them in kick starting their ideas.

There are local bank and government loans towards green business and many international funds and organisations to assist in implementing green technologies, food production, social development and renewables including transport. It is just as mentioned earlier difficult for those with the ideas and drive to get to that finance level.

The effort that is required now, is to ensure that local policy makes it possible to work with outsider finance and especially securing revenue streams with new business models that will disrupt the business as usual model.

Venture Capital firms as an example are not well promoted and all of this creates an unclear path for future business players. Sustainable Funding for small to large businesses is the enabler for the Namibian economy and fortunately there seem to be positive developments in this arena locally. The problem being the pace of change seem to be lagging in implementation.

A new finance model

Previously the author made the point that the only current and future solutions for any agriculture activity is the one where any global environmental impact is absent with Zero carbon footprint and the most resource sensitive processes that are both sustainable and renewable. Finance is no different, it needs to be in tune with environmental requirements.

Namibian entrepreneurs who wants to start a business, need to understand the process of bank(Institutional funding) and the other options available: Example; Bootstrap, Seed, debt or capital?

In Namibia there are yearly Start-Up festivals for entrepreneurs. Many presentations are offered to educate and inspire. The two biggest issues with these events are the lack of participants and lack of finance focus. It is probably the lack of knowledge about alternative finance options that are keeping entrepreneurs from coming forward. There is a large opportunity that needs to be addressed.

A typical business will follow this route and can stop at any point which is in line with the management’s objectives. Not everyone wants a unicorn and as such there are different finance options for each stage which as a rule is not well defined nor available in Namibia.

Current system: Soul or Co-Founder

  • Loans from Friends and Family – small amounts N$10,000- 500,000
  • Angel Investor – medium amounts – N$500,000 – 2 million. Done with interest and time and/or convertible note (safe agreement) with stock discount 20% if converted. Normally a conversion cap. // Boot camp 5-9% with optional after the fact investments. Incubator process.
  • Venture Capitalists – Seed, Series A, B, C, D – seat on board, shares (An US system especially for disruptive tech with million X return potential)
  • Private Equity
  • IPO, Initial Public offerings
  • The new ICO, Initial Coin offerings process which is highly volatile given the speculation in Crypto currencies.

It is very important to note that these investors understand the risks and they focus on 20% of their investments to make money on average. Failure when everything is done possible is not a total end of career scenario. It is part of the process and this is something Namibians need to learn quickly to become open to the idea of risk versus reward.

There is much to be said and done within this space and conversations need to start in an open and trustworthy fashion to encourage participants to take charge of their destiny.

by Willem Baartman