Windhoek — President Hage Geingob's dream of seeing Ongombo West farm producing flowers full throttle and exporting to overseas market - as was the case during its ownership under the evicted Wiese prior to 2005 - is being complicated by the 99-year lease of the farm to its current occupants.
Towards the end of 2018, Geingob directed the ministries of land and agriculture to ensure all government resettlement farms have become productive in order to help, amongst others, boost food production in the country. Among the farms that must become fully productive, the President ordered after last year's national land conference, is the deplorable Ongombo West farm, which he wants to see exporting flowers to international markets again.
He directed the two ministries to carry out an urgent assessment of the status of resettlement farms and what would be required to improve productivity. No timelines were announced.
Ongombo, which was expropriated and apportioned by government to a group of landless Namibians in 2005, has become a white elephant, as the fertile land lies idle.
Speaking to New Era last week about the status of carrying out the President's directive, the Ministry of Land Reform said it cannot intervene in the restoration of Ongombo West farm since the farm was legally allocated to substantive beneficiaries in June 2006 for a 99-year lease period.
Before it was expropriated and given to former workers, Ongombo West was once a flourishing commercial farm exporting flowers to Europe, but since its expropriation, the prime farmland has become a pale shadow of its former self.
Those resettled on that farm cannot even grow vegetables for their own consumption and many have been begging government for relief food. Land Reform spokesperson Chrispin Matongela told New Era that any targeted development from government should be communicated and agreed to by those resettled on the farm. "Government just comes in, in the form of assistance due to the fact that government might have realised that the farm in question has either been laying fallow for too long, or the farm is not being utilized to its full potential to enhance the desirable production scale as stated in the lease agreement," Matongela said upon inquiry.
Geingob last October instructed both ministries to ensure that Ongombo West is returned to the pinnacles of farm producing and commercially exporting flowers to international markets.
The President suggested that this would be attained through partnering with skilled commercial farmers and setting up of a cooperative.
In its heyday, the farm exported 150 000 flowers to Germany, Holland and South Africa annually. It produced between 130 000 and 150 000 Arum Lilies (Zantedeschia flowers) worth an estimated U$500 000.
When New Era visited the farm, the scene was that of a settlement of destitute families relying on handouts. Many were sitting idle and asked for government handouts instead of farming on the fertile soil under their feet.
Government has divided the farm into sections of varying hectares and each section was given to a group of families or individuals for farming.
Some of the resettled people, such as those under the Namibian Former Robben Island Political Prisoners Trust, are trying to farm on their part of the farm.
The former veterans set up a horticulture garden as a trial, and their aim is to establish fully fledged horticultural farm.
The section occupied by the former employees has an atmosphere that is heavy with a sense of desperation, poverty, and unemployment and illiteracy levels among the resettled farmers.
They only possess few chickens, donkeys, goats and plenty of stray dogs.
"Government has abandoned us," they told New Era.
"They promised to provide us with livestock so that we can start farming to improve our lives, but to no avail.
And government did try, at first, to accommodate the resettled farmers, including the farmworkers-turned-farmers. But things started going awry within months. On Section C of the farm, as the irrigation system installed by the previous owner was destroyed within a month. Government had to repair it at a cost of N$1.6 million.
Currently, a number of livestock could be seen on several sections, owned by weekend farmers, on this farm that is situated 40 kilometres east of Windhoek.