KATIMA MULILO – Government has allocated N$8 million towards the Kalimbeza rice project in the Zambezi region, which has been on the brink of collapse to recoup its operations.
The rice project, which is envisaged to become the major rice producer, contributing towards food security in Namibia, has over the years yielded little to poor rice plantation.
In an exclusive interview with New Era this week, deputy director for agricultural engineering Felix Ndinamwene admitted the agriculture ministry is aware of the challenges faced by the project.
Hence, he revealed the government has availed a budget of around N$8 million to resuscitate the project.
He said such a budget will be carried out in various phases.
Year in and year out, the government, through the ministry of agriculture, continues to bail out the rice project with millions of dollars.
However, the farm has not planted rice for the last two years due to factors such as disconnected electricity, non-payment of employee salaries, a lack of fuel, uneven fields and wrecked equipment.
Despite the Zambezi region having vast land for crop production and grazing areas for animal farming, Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu recently expressed regret that there is no green scheme that is actively running, as the multi-million-dollar Kalimbeza rice project is at minimal production.
Equally, Kabbe North councillor Bernard Sisamu, whose political jurisdiction includes Kalimbeza, also expressed disappointment, as the project is idle when the community availed huge tracks of land to the government to produce rice.
Ndimamwene explained that phase one will seek the services of the engineering consultants to carry out a detailed assessment, including topographical land surveying, hydrology analysis, design, tender documentation and contract supervision for the construction of embankment, drainage systems, field levelling and irrigation systems restoration.
“Phase two will now be the construction phases and implementation stage of what the engineering consultants carry out as recommended on the flood management and drainage procedures, among others,” he noted.
This, Ndinamwene indicated, will be done because the government realised it was not sustainable to continue pumping money into planting rice at Kalimbeza in its current state, as it amounts to a waste of State resources.
He assured that phase one will be completed this financial year, whereas the next phase is to be completed the following financial year.
Meanwhile, Kalimbeza project manager Patrick Kompeli said nothing is happening at the farm as it stands.
“There are no activities now happening at the project. The ministry has plans to appoint consultants to survey the field. The aim is to level the field because the land is uneven, as we use a flood irrigation system where we pump water into the field. That’s why we expect a lot of weed and low yield. That’s why we are not planting; otherwise, we will waste resources. The government wants to solve this issue once and for all,” Kompeli stated.
Furthermore, he said the rice processing machines need some attention, and the project is also in need of a combine harvester.