WINDHOEK -Tough economic times have forced more than 600 communal and emerging farmers from the Ongombe Farmers Association to cancel the prestigious annual Okamatapati Show for the second consecutive year.
A distraught chief organiser of the Okamatapati Show, Albert Tjihero, says fees charged by the Windhoek Show Society (WSS) and transport costs have ballooned beyond the means of communal farmers, who are already struggling to find marketing channels for their livestock.
The last Okamatapati Show was held in 2016 in Windhoek after a bitter feud with the WSS drove the Ongombe Farmers Union to Otjiwarongo the previous year where a successful but also very expensive event was presented.
Tjihero says communal and emerging farmers have shown tremendous courage to stage the show far from their grazing fields, in the face of consecutive droughts since 2013 and its adverse effect on income. But he says unfavourable marketing opportunities, the current economic crunch, rise in fuel prices and exuberant fees for acquiring show grounds to stage the event, made it impossible for the show to take place.
He says grazing in most areas of the communities has been severely depleted since 2013, and although it has improved since 2017, not all of them were fortunate enough to restock. Then they were hit by another dry spell in 2015 but still managed to stage the show. However, the expenses have caught up with all of them and their pleas for financial assistance from the private sector have fallen on deaf ears. “There is just no way we can put a show together this year,” he laments.
After burying the hatchet with the WSS following a bitter dispute, with accusations by the WSS that exhibitors damaged infrastructure during their first show at the Windhoek Show Grounds in 2013, the OFA managed to put together the last show in Windhoek in 2016. Tjihero says OFA faced an uphill task to generate some N$250,000 as a down payment to the WSS for the show to take place. However, the money was raised with the help of each and every OFA member and loyal communities in the Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions.
Tjihero says it is evident that an integrated approach is likely to underpin an efficient livestock marketing system. This entails an understanding of farmer livelihoods (household characteristics) and their development in a much more explicit context of community dynamics. The decentralisation of livestock markets and the wider dissemination of well updated information to the communal farmers by the government and other stakeholders can play a role in improving communal farmers’ access to formal cattle markets. The timely provision of market information will strengthen farmers’ negotiating ability during trading.
The transition of the communal sector towards commercial production will eventually be determined by its access to markets. The issues that need to be addressed are practical in nature and would require a joint effort by all stakeholders, including government, communal farmers, producer organisations and private sector role players, he observes. Tjihero notes that the decentralisation of livestock markets and the wider dissemination of key information related to markets can play a pivotal role in improving access to formal cattle markets. The provision of such market updates will strengthen negotiating ability of farmers during transactions with auctioneers, abattoirs and individual speculators.
“We have since then struggled to get financial support from sponsors but times are tough for everyone and we had to cancel the event,” he states.
2018-10-02 10:20:10 11 months ago