OMUTHIYA - Since the establishment of a horticulture farm near Oshivelo in 2012, life has started to taste a little sweeter for many of the previously unemployed and disadvantaged marginalised communities who reside at the settlement.
The farm has not only benefitted Oshivelo townn, but the country at large as the produce is further distributed to retail stores like Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Food Lovers Market and Agro Marketing Trade Agency (AMTA). This in return reduces food imports.
Farm Oshivelo is situated at the margin of the settlement which is dominated by San communities and now provides over 250 jobs. It serves as their main source of income and a food basket for the communities who receive surplus veggies on a regular basis for consumption, for free. About 85 percent of the workforce consists of women.
“I started this farm from scratch in 2012 with only a workforce of 25 on 10 hectares and now irrigate about 94 hectares. My aim and wish were for job creation and food security. I would like to expand and produce more in order to avoid importing fresh produce,”
Oshivelo farm owner Jan Harm Cronje informed New Era during a recent visit at the farm.
A lot of activities were happening from preparing the soil to clearing, and harvesting of beetroot. While at the shop, employees were busy packaging the produce for delivery.
The shop is just next to the B1 main road, and serves as a one-stop for motorists and surely is unavoidable due to its low prices. The produce include cabbage, carrots, onions, beetroot, paw-paw, tomatoes, among others.
Cronje said although the market is there he still needs to do more on the soil, with the motive, if possible, to supply the nation with fresh produce. However, his dream, he says, might be short-lived as his efforts to obtain a water permit to drill an additional borehole have been shut, although an environmental impact assessment that he paid for himself has been done. He pointed to inaccessibility to finance as another obstacle.
Cronje leases 500 hectares from Onguma farm. “I cannot access finance because I don’t have a certificate indicating that I own the piece of land and to put it under Oshivelo farming. Although Onguma where I lease the land does not object or have any problem with me having the area registered under the company, I was informed by the ministry of lands that the area should at least measure 1 500 hectares,” said a distressed Cronje.
He argued that the turnover on the current land can be four times higher than that of a livestock farm measuring 5 000 hectares, thus he does not see where the problem is if the land is economically viable. He thus appealed to the ministry to reconsider its decision.
“I will still resubmit my proposal, because like that I am cut from expanding as I do not have access to finance. I can double everything here once I have access, from production to employment creation. We produce 6 000 tonnes per annum on this farm, just on 94 hectares. There is potential on this farm, markets are available, favourable and the demand is high,” he said.
The headman of Oshivelo, Erwin Nashikaku, was impressed with the overall production of the farm and commended the owner for providing employment and food to the locals who were previously subjected to poverty and high unemployment.
“This farm has become bread and butter for the whole society – we all live from this farm, it is really making a difference.
Therefore I appeal to the relevant ministry to accord the man the opportunity and allow him to expand and serve all of us,” said Nashikaku.
Cronje has been carrying out social responsibility activities such as the provision of vegetables to communities and schools for school-feeding programmes and also provided chairs and tables to various schools.