19 September 2017

Namibia: #Gabis Community Grows Lucerne to Beat Drought

Nmaibia had in 2013 experienced its worst drought in 30 years, which resulted in massive livestock losses due to a lack of pasture.

That year, a bright idea sprouted in a group of #Gabis settlement farmers near Karasburg to start a community gardening project to grow lucerne to feed their livestock.

Besides lucerne, the group also grows a variety of vegetables like onions, carrots, pumpkins and beetroot on a piece of land allocated to them by the Bondelswarts Traditional Authority. Martin Bezuidenhout (47), one of the founding members of the project, still vividly remembers 2013 as one of the most challenging and toughest years.

"It was one of the most difficult years, but it inspired us to prepare for recurrent droughts to avoid livestock losses during dry seasons," he stated.

The crop and livestock farmer says he no longer worries about fodder for his animals during the dry season.

The idea to cultivate a variety of vegetables was aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle among the community. The group had also approached the Karasburg East constituency office to request financial assistance.

"At first, they were reluctant to assist us because similar initiatives in the region had previously failed. We had to convince them that we aimed to have a project to sustain the future generation when we are gone," Bezuidenhout said.

He explained that instead of sitting around waiting for handouts, the group bought seeds from their resources, and started digging a well to source water for their envisaged community garden.

The group eventually persuaded the constituency office to assist them with fencing materials, water storage tanks, a solar pump and with the drilling of a borehole.

"We had even gone to the extent of calling in a nearby commercial farmer who assisted us to construct the beds for lucerne to explain to the government officials the viability of growing lucerne in the area," he added.

Bezuidenhout thanked constituency councillor Dennis Coetzee and his office staff for the assistance they have given to the group to date to establish the community gardening project.

Indeed, hard work, perseverance and dedication have paid off for the group as the community garden they planted has already yielded a harvest.

"We have already produced a variety of vegetables and lucerne," a proud Bezuidenhout said, adding that they sold some produce to sustain the project, taking some for their own use, as well as donating fresh vegetables to those in need at the settlement to promote healthy living.

One of the biggest challenges the project faces is the lack of a cultivator, and a lucerne pressing machine.

Currently, the group relies on a home-made cultivator and lucerne pressing machine, which was built by project member Ben Ortman (67) to plough their land for cultivation.

"Hard work, dedication and perseverance are the best medicines to succeed amid tribulations," said Ortman, adding that the group would appreciate any help to expand their project.

He said although the home-made gardening implements are not perfect, they are performing a similar function as those sold in gardening shops.

"It is a tough job to plough with your own hands, but this will not discourage us," said another founding member, Moses Swartbooi (77).

Martin Swartbooi (47) is also a member of the group which aims to create self-employment and food security through their dream initiative.

- luqman@namibian.com.na

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