ONGWEDIVA – Small-scale farmers at the Etunda irrigation project have expressed their frustration over the poor living conditions, such as dilapidated houses and lack of equipment at the green scheme.
They also raised other matters, such as low water pressure caused by old pipes and pumps at the project has led to wilting of crops, whilst a lack of market for their produce is also problematic. The farmers complained to Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila during her visit to the Etunda irrigation project on Thursday.
The project has 74 small-scale farmers who own 91 garden plots covering 219 hectares while commercial farmers own 450 hectares.
In a statement read by the chairperson of small-scale farmers, Frans Kalenga said the situation at Etunda is bad because they have been suffering for several years.
According to Kalenga, they face enormous challenges, such as low productivity, no safety, broken equipment and robbery.
Also, the lack of a fence resulted in people bringing their livestock for grazing.
“We no longer make money. Our markets have slowed down due to low productivity,” he added.
Also speaking to New Era, Helmut Nakwaya, who owns a plot on the scheme, said they spent five days without electricity because the transformation has broken.
He stated even at their houses, toilets are broken, sewage treatment is not working and several houses have broken doors.
“There are lots of bats inside our houses, since the ceiling on the roof is broken and it’s not safe for us. Some of the ceilings fall on our beds when we sleep,” he stressed.
The farmers have told the prime minister they need security guards on the premises of Etunda, fences, new equipment, houses to be renovated and the water crisis to be solved.
Acting manager at Etunda Sackey Shilyomunhu further informed Kuugongelwa-Amadhila of his concern regarding the procurement system, where decisions are still made in Windhoek – even in times of emergencies, which he said causes delays. He said, of the 24 tractors on the project, only three are working. According to Shilyomunhu, the tractors were imported and their spare parts are not available locally.
The maize milling machine is also old and can only operate for nine hours a day.
Another challenge he mentioned is the unavailability of maize grain to mill maize meal that is sold locally and in demand.
“The wheat mill is functioning – but since last year, we stopped milling wheat because the brands of our competitors are good in the market. We do not have an aggressive marketing department to overpower them. What we do with wheat is just produce wheat and sell it to millers like Bokomo and Namib-Mills,” he lamented.
He added outdated equipment, facilities and tractors that have been broken for about six years now are said to be hampering operations at Etunda. In her response, after she visited the houses of the farmers and the production site, the Prime Minister expressed concern about the situation at Etunda.
“I will discuss the matter with relevant authorities so that the situation can be solved as soon as possible,” she promised.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila added agriculture is one of the important sectors that create job opportunities for indigenous people, enabling them to produce food for themselves; therefore, the government will remain committed to supporting local farmers.
“I think there is a lot of information that needs to be followed up. The directives of our president are really for us to optimise our production capacity, improve our self-reliance and wean ourselves off foreign supplies. We need to optimise local production. Although we have agreed to implement a reform of our green scheme projects, it does not mean that we should stop everything now before we are ready to start with the reform,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila informed the farmers.