WINDHOEK - Three months after President Hage Geingob instructed the ministries of Land Reform and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to restore Ongombo West to its productive glory, the farm remains unproductive.
Before it was expropriated and given to its former workers, Ongombo West was once a flourishing commercial flower farm that exported flowers to Europe but since its expropriation became a shadow of its glorious past. The people resettled on that farm cannot even grow vegetables for own use and they are beggars.
Yesterday, officials from the Ministry of Land Reform that had campaigned for the expropriation said they are still working on a ‘plan’ to assist the new owners.
Geingob through Presidential Press Secretary Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari last October instructed both ministries to ensure that farm Ongombo West be turned around from its current status, in order to start exporting flowers to Europe again.
“Through partnering with skilled commercial farmers, and setting up of a cooperative this can be done, “Geingob told the two ministries last year.
But, Chrispin Matongela, the Ministry of Land Reform Public Relations Officer (PRO) yesterday said the ministry is working on ‘a strategy’ to assist farmers resettled on the farm without mentioning what this strategy entailed.
“The ministry has been aware of the situation of farm Ongombo- West before the conference, an assessment was carried out to develop a strategy to assist the beneficiaries, and furthermore the ministry also visited the farm again for further assessment,” he said upon inquiry.
In its heyday, the farm exported 150 000 flowers to Germany, Holland and South Africa annually. In its prime, Ongombo West produced between 130 000 and 150 000 Arum Lilies (Zantedeschia flowers) worth an estimated U$500 000.
When New Era visited the farm in July 2016, the scene was that of a settlement of destitute families relying on handouts. Many were sitting idle and asked for government handouts instead of farming on the fertile soil under their feet.
Government has divided the farm into sections of varying hectares and each section was given to a group of families or individuals for farming. Some of the resettled people, such as those under the Namibian Former Robben Island Political Prisoners Trust are trying to farm on their part of the farm.
The former veterans have set up a horticulture garden as a trial, and their aim is to establish fully fledged horticultural farm.
A number of livestock could be seen on several sections, owned by weekend farmers, on this farm that is situated 40 kilometres east of Windhoek.
At the time of the visit, the section occupied by the former employees had an atmosphere that is heavy with a sense of desperation, poverty, and unemployment and illiteracy levels among the resettled farmers.
Then they only possessed few chickens, donkeys, goats and plenty of stray dogs.
“Government has abandoned us. They promised to provide us with livestock so that we can start farming to improve our lives, but to no avail. All we want is just livestock and water then our lives will be better,” moaned Wilfried Hoebeb at the time. Hoebeb was born and bred on the farm 45 years ago.
But government did try, at first, to accommodate the resettled farmers, including the farmworkers-turned-farmers. But things started going awry within months. On Section C of the farm, the irrigation system installed by the previous owner was destroyed within a month. Government had to repair it at a cost of N$1.6 million. New Era was told that the pumps have not worked for years.
Hoebeb told New Era during the visit that their deplorable living conditions could improve had government fulfilled its promises to provide them with water infrastructure and livestock.
“I am hopeless. I have nothing to add to my name. The only thing I know is farming,” he said at the time.
2019-02-01 09:26:03 4 months ago