13 February 2018

Namibia: Farming Saving Club Firm On the Ground

Windhoek — At the end of last month, Farmers Forum ran an article concerning the concept of Harambee rubbing off on some communal farmers in the country who have now established an organisation named Harambee 2030 Vision.

The initiative of longtime farmer, Albert Tjihero and others is meant to encourage and help beginner farmers to deal with the challenges of farming, especially cattle herding, which is the economic mainstay of many communal farmers and the backbone of their livelihood that on which communal farming communities have been relying mostly if not solely for subsistence and substance. However, the changing climatic conditions of late have not been farming friendly.

One of the affiliates of Harambee Vision 2030 is the Ovatuta Ovaute Project, a farming saving club. More than being a byproduct of Harambee Vision 2030, OvaÞuta Ovaute Project is rather its forerunner with its existence dating back to 2015. From a membership of only six, the project now boasts 256 members. But this is far from satisfactory for this farming stokvel that has already embarked on its membership drive for this year by availing its membership application forms, for N$120 per member per year.

Among its objectives this year is to host workshops for its members where they are going to receive training from experts in farming be it animal husbandry or crop production. Indeed given the limited grazing space in Namibia, the focus of the group is to encourage members optimise their farming practices, including diversifying into other farming practices like crop production. Not only that, the focus is also very much on making farming a business venture by helping farmers not only concentrate on the breeding of animals but that they also optimise on animal husbandry by making business out of byproducts coming from rearing animals such as selling milk and processing it into other dairy products.

The group started as a WhatsApp group of a few friends that would share farming practices among one another. However they realised that they would benefit from the economies of scale if the group expanded. Today the group has members from all over the country even north of the Veterinary Cordon Fence, the south and overseas in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. It has three categories of monthly savers, of N$500, N$1,000 and N$2,000 per month. The savings of each member are then used for buying livestock, whether big or small as well as setting up the necessary farming infrastructure at the end of each year.

"As beginner farmers aspiring to buy quality or farm with stud animals, we also value good farming infrastructure," explains the organiser of the group, Florence Uapakua Handura, describing such an approach as progressive farming.

She hastens to add that 40-50 percent of the group members are women, which she hails as positive development in view of the fact that traditionally farming has been dominated by men. But Handura excitedly welcomes their increasing involvement with the group, noting this as an advantage to their male partners. She is also happy about the active positive contribution and involvement of the women in the group.

Last year the Canadian members of the group saved close to N$1 million while the Namibian group saved N$111,000. For members of the group, the saving club is indeed very much a welcome initiative. Stories abound of Namibians working overseas repatriating their hard-earned cash home in the care of their relatives only to find such having been squandered. But in this saving club, Handura assures that their cash is not only safe but even the animals they buy with the cash are quality animals, adding it is one of her duties as an organiser to ensure that the animals members buy are quality stock.

Black empowerment is also uppermost on the agenda of the saving club to break the monopoly of white farmers over quality or stud breeds, as well as the perception that white farmers are the only ones farming with quality animals.

Meanwhile, Harambee Vision 2030, of which Handura is also an organiser, is having its first meeting of the year tonight at Namibia Primary School in Katutura.

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