17 June 2005

Namibia: Everything's Coming Up Roses At Dordabis

Windhoek — A TYPICAL day on the rose farm Namib Roses just outside Dordabis starts at 06h00 when the flowers are packed into a van and transported to Windhoek.

Namib Roses was started eight years ago by Francois Durand.

He studied computer science and engineering at the University of Stellenbosch, and during weekends he worked on a rose farm for pocket money.

When he returned to Windhoek, Francois worked at a computer company for three months before realising that it was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

Initially he could not get a business loan, as people thought he was crazy wanting to start a rose farm in Namibia.

Today he has 40 000 rosebushes bearing flowers of 20 different colours in his greenhouses.

He has clients from across the country and his wife delivers flowers to Windhoek three times a week.

There are four greenhouses, which cover 1,5 hectares.

Durand employs 40 people at Namib Roses, which is the biggest rose farm in Namibia.

All the rose bushes come from South Africa and are especially grown for cut flowers.

Roses, Francois says, are like fashion - some people like the rosebuds to stay closed until they wilt and others prefer them to be fully open.

He says growers are trying to breed the smell back into roses, which was lost when roses were bred with long, straight stems.

Although it all started with roses and Namib Roses has cornered about 80 per cent of the rose market in Namibia, they also grow chrysanthemums on a large scale.

Chrysanthemums are planted every two weeks to assure year-round production, as the flowers are not cut like roses.

The whole plant is uprooted, the flowers are then cut off and the rest is discarded.

All plant leftovers are turned into compost and reused.

Namib Roses also has a greenhouse full of pot plants and herbs such as lavender and rosemary, which are sold to nurseries across the county.

A computer, the only one of its kind in Namibia, ensures that the temperature and humidity in all four greenhouses are kept constant.

The watering and fertilising is also done by the computer.

If too much or too little water is used at any point, the computer sounds an alarm and the pipes can be checked for leakage or blockage.

The computer also calculates the amount of fertiliser needed and dispenses the right amount.

One greenhouse has two rows of heated cement slabs, which are kept at a constant heat for the germination of seedlings.

Especially in winter, the soil needs to be kept at a constant temperature for seeds to germinate.

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