Windhoek “Watch out Windhoek, here we come,” announces founding member and chief organiser of the annual Okamatapati Show of the Ongombe Farmers Association, Albert Tjihero, loudly in anticipation of the 28th edition of the popular show in Windhoek again this year next month. Tjihero is confident that the drought-stricken farmers will show their true grit with farming activities from August 22 to 27 when members of the Ongombe Farmers Association and their livestock and locally made products will once again descend on the Windhoek Showgrounds. Tjihero holds fond memories of his role as an emancipator of communal farmers by helping them transformed into emerging producers with high quality livestock. Tjihero, who has blew out 60 candles on his last birthday cake, relives the humble and sometimes humiliating start of the Ongombe Farmers Association (OFA) and the first Okamatapati Show in 1983 in an exclusive interview with Farmers Forum when he announced next month’s 28th edition of the show. “A group of communal farmers established the OFA in 1983 and staged the very first Okamatapati Show in 1986 in a pre-independence Namibia. We had nothing, no infrastructure, no facilities, and no support. But we had one thing in common, a vision of bringing communal farmers together at a show to learn and to educate and to improve on our standards and quality,” he recalls. Tjihero says communal farmers pretty much lived and operated as in the Dark Ages in those days, passion their only driving force. “At the first Okamatapati Show in 1986, we chased the wild cattle into a kraal, judged them, and clapped hands at a job well-done,” he recalls with a grin. Asked about the prospects for this year’s show, he notes that farmers are going through devastating times in the rural and communal areas due to consecutive droughts. “To compound our problems, the new SA import regulations, implemented on July 01, just make life almost unbearable for weaner producers; a production system that some 80 percent of all communal farmers have built their lives and future on. We are suffering, but we will not lie down. The show must go on,” he comments. He says it took the association many years of struggling to build facilities at Okamatapati and the show was improving all the time, but by 2012 it became apparent that it was time to branch out, grow bigger and make a public statement in the heartland of commercial farming that the communal and emerging farmers were ready for bigger things. “Unfortunately, due to various reasons, the facilities at Okamatapati were run down by that time, and in 2013 we started on a new page by bringing the show to Windhoek. We had a nasty run-in with the Windhoek Show Society (WSS) after accusations of messing at the show grounds and were told we’re not welcome again. The show travelled to Otjiwarongo in 2014, and after long deliberations with the WSS, we were welcomed back last year and staged a memorable show. This year will be the best ever,” he enthusiastically points out. “Despite the devastation of the 2013 drought, and this year, OFA still hopes to bring close to 300 cattle to Windhoek at a high cost for a show that will be remembered for its excellent quality livestock. More important, this show is the ultimate school for communal farmers. Together with our regular farmers’ days, this show is the place to earn your matric certificate for university studies in farming,” he notes. Tjihero says communal farmers leave the show with new and vital information about rangeland management, breeding programmes, cattle breeds for the harsh environment and management styles, adapted for Namibian conditions. “More than 70 percent of the animals at the show come from communal farmers. They are our focal point. We want to improve on their standards and quality for them to earn their rightful place in the livestock sector of this country, which some 74 percent of people depend on directly or indirectly. We are achieving our goals, and we will stop at nothing to make this dream come true.” Tjihero says he would like to see more direct involvement from the Meat Board, Meatco and commercial sponsors. “Communal farmers also contribute some 70 percent of livestock for exports, and it would only be fair that they get recognised on all levels, to level the playing field,” he concludes.
New Era Reporter
2016-07-26 15:53:35 2 years ago