By Victor Angula
CLOSE to 300 Namibian horticulture farmers gathered at the historic Olushandja Dam, popularly known by locals as Etaka, in Omusati region’s Onesi constituency to share and tell their story, which is the Namibian food production story. September 26 was the one day on the calendar of horticulture producers across the country not to be missed, especially by those who associate themselves with the activities of the Namibian Agronomic Board, as the National Horticulture and Awards Day aims to recognise their efforts and celebrate their achievements. Horticulture is defined as the science and art of cultivating a garden, orchard, or nursery, the cultivation of fruit and vegetables, flowers, herbs or ornamental plants. However, the Namibian story is the attempt to produce mainly fruits and vegetables to ensure food self-sufficiency and to address food insecurity in the country, as well as malnutrition and over-reliance on food imports. The guests, who came from all over the country, were hosted by the Olushandja Horticulture Producers Association. The choice of venue was made in honour of this year’s winner of the category for Smallscale Horticulture Producer of the Year, Eilo Amushili,whose ATAE Fruit and Vegetable Farm is located in the area. Aptly themed: ‘Small Scale Producers: Our Food – Our Story’, the day was taken up by presentations, a panel discussion, an award-giving ceremony, a field visit to small-scale farming operations, the farmers’ association General Assembly and a networking session. From the beginning of the day’s activities a “problem statement” was put forward. It said that “small scale producers are finding it increasingly difficult to access local formal markets for their primary produce in spite of successes achieved in the implementation of the Market Share Promotion (MSP) scheme.” In response, Manjo Krige, a consultant for the National Association of Horticulture Producers (NAHOP), gave a presentation analysing current marketing trends and alternative marketing options for small-scale producers across Namibia. A panel discussion moderated by National Horticulture Task Team chairperson Nico van der Merwe then ensued, with panelists Sylvanus Naunyango, a small-scale producer at Olushandja, Louis Louw, a medium-scale producer at Stampriet, Michael Iyambo, a large-scale producer at Tsumeb, mega trader Marius Swemmer of Go Fresh, Leon Nel, a Windhoek-based mega trader, Lucas Lungameni, MD for AMTA, Manjo Krige, NAHOP consultant, and Maria Zileni Nyirenda, the event’s guest speaker and owner of Tuzini Farms in Zambia. The panel discussed ways to reposition small-scale producers for increased productivity and greater access to formal markets. Halfway through the day’s activities the Governor of Omusati Region Erginus Endjala arrived and gave a welcoming speech, which called on chain stores in the country to start accepting locally produced food products on their shelves or risk consumer boycotts organised by the regional government. The CEO and founder of Tuzini Farms, Maria Nyirenda, told the gathered farmers how – despite being a woman – she overcame many obstacles in her country to become successful in the vegetable farming business. She encouraged fellow women to put in all the necessary effort, saying it only needs commitment and focus. Namibian Agronomic Board chairman Michael Iyambo also had some encouraging remarks for the farmers, saying it was important for a farmer to associate with other farmers, especially the big and successful ones – even if they are of a different race. National Horticulture manager Lesley Losper directed the awards ceremony at which farmers were awarded trophies, certificates and cheques. In the producer category Kobus and Gayle Coetzee won the Large-scale Horticulture Producer of the Year award. Louis Louw won the Medium-scale Horticulture Producer of the Year. Eilo Amushili won the Small-scale Horticulture Producer of the Year and Go Fresh Pty (Ltd) won the Mega Trader of the Year award. Later in the day Amushili took the guests to his three-hectare ATAE Fruit and Vegetable Farm some two kilometres away, where he narrated the story of how he started with a borrowed water-pump generator, learning in the process and overcoming challenges along the way, until this point in time when his efforts were being recognised. To conclude, Namibian Agronomic Board CEO Dr. Fidelis Mwazi thanked all who attended, but told them to bear in mind that the Namibian food story was just beginning to be told. More of it will be heard in years to come as the country aims to position itself as the food basket of the SADC region. Sponsors for this year’s National Horticulture Day included AgriBank, Namibia Fresh Produce Market, Agra Ltd, Stark Ayres, NAHOP, NATFP, Olushandja Horticulture Producers Association, Kaap-Agri Namibia, Agri-Gro Namibia, Etaka Agri-Vet and Compact Packaging.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015