27 November 2012

Namibia: Sikondo a Potential Breadbasket

Rundu — The Sikondo Green Scheme Irrigation Project could feed the entire nation once full production levels are reached.

Ploughing and planting on the 840-hectare state owned agricultural project is in full swing on what is probably one of the most promising among several green schemes scattered across Namibia. Presently, the farm produces sunflowers, maize, wheat, butternut, pumpkin, watermelon and gem squash.

The sunflower produce is sold mainly to the Shadikongoro Green Scheme Project, because they have the required processing equipment to process and press sunflower seeds into cooking oil, explained the project's assistant manager Frans Itepu.

The edible oil is sold to retailers who place orders. Members of the public can also buy directly from the farm at a much cheaper price than in shops, but the farm's management has indicated that the public is either not aware that they can buy directly from the farm or perhaps the distant location of the project is a deterring factor, Itepu noted.

"Soil in some parts of the farm is still in its virgin form, thus we are busy improving the soil fertility so that we have a good harvest. Weed remains one of our biggest challenges, because with new land you can use various chemicals but you will not kill the entire weed," he said.

"We spend about N$1000 per hectare to buy chemicals needed to kill the weeds," he told New Era. Itepu says the target is to harvest between 9 tonnes to 10 tonnes of maize per hectare during the upcoming harvest. The assistant manager said about 400 hectares of the farmland will be used exclusively for growing maize.

The farm currently has six tractors it uses for its ploughing and harvesting activities on the farm. "As you can see, we are forced to make use of this storage facility to store our maize, but plans are well underway for the farm to have its own silos. By next year, we will have two silos in which our maize will be stored before it is dispatched. At the moment, Bokomo is our biggest client when it comes to the purchasing of maize," he said.

With most of the land still being treated to improve its soil fertility, about 30 hectares of the farm have been planted with watermelons, butternuts, gem squash and pumpkins, each on 7.5 hectares of land. Since the installation of a water pump in 2011, there is no longer any need to wait for the rainy season to start like in the past and planting can now go on throughout the year.

About 270 of the 840 hectares will be shared among nine small-scale farmers for crop production purposes.

The farmers are financed through the Agricultural Bank of Namibia's small-scale farmers' loan guarantee scheme. Last year the project received N$100 million from the government to develop its infrastructure in its quest to reach full potential.

The Kavango Region is home to seven government green scheme projects, namely Ndonga Linena, Uvhungu-vhungu, Musese, Shitemo, Shadikongoro, Mashare and the Sikondo Agricultural Project.

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