Less than 1% of Namibia is arable. About 47% of the active population depends on agriculture for their living. Agriculture consists of two sectors: a commercial sector with some 50,000 workers (producing 80% of annual yields), and a subsistence sector situated largely in communal areas. Colonialism left Namibia with a three-tier agricultural production system: 4,000 commercial ranches; 20,000 stock-raising households; and 120,000 mixed-farming operations. The ranches displaced local farmers on 66% of the viable farmland and left only 5% of the land to the 120,000 mixed-farming operations.
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. Corn production in 1999 amounted only to 18,000 tons (down from 50,000 tons in 1991). Recent droughts have created a dependency on grain imports. Namibia is dependent on South Africa for corn, sugar, fruit, and vegetables. In 2001, Namibia's agricultural trade deficit was $17.8 million.
Caprivi and Kavango in the northeast have potential for extensive crop development. Communal farms there are estimated to produce 60% of their staple food, such as mahango (which is also used to brew beer). Cotton, groundnut, rice, sorghum, and vegetable production have begun on an experimental basis in Kavango. An irrigation project at Hardap Dam near Mariental produces corn, alfalfa, feed corn, and grapes.