ONDERA - The once flourishing government resettlement farm of Ondera, about 70 kilometres north of Tsumeb has turned into a shadow of itself. Agricultural production has come to a halt because of the inability of the occupants to pay the electricity bill. Farm Ondera is a combination of two farms - Ondera and Komeva.
“We have lost it all, and the community is starving as we have not produced anything for many years now because of the huge electricity bill. Previously, we had a postpaid account, however, following the soaring bill, the government arranged for a prepaid meter, but this also created another bigger problem because it is registered as commercial, hence the charges are equally higher,” explained farm administrator Jan Haneb.
“We can put 2 000 units but it’s little to nothing, we have tried and given up because the units don’t last. All the money we had was spent on purchasing electricity. There is nothing generating income here, as we can’t even afford to start with any farming activities which requires more water if we can’t even manage to provide water for household use,” he said.
When government officials visited the farm in 2018, there was optimism that this project wouldn’t fall into disrepair like many others.
Acquired in 2012 for the resettlement of disadvantaged communities, Farm Ondera was supposed to have placed the community on the right trajectory towards self-sustenance.
The farm was procured by the government after several destitute people, including some members of the San community, found themselves on the periphery of Oshivelo in the Oshikoto region, where some stayed in shacks and others in a cemetery due to displacement and shortage of land.
The farm was acquired under the Office of the Prime Minister through its division for marginalised communities, which now falls under the Office of the Vice President.
For three years now, the fertile soil has not produced a single crop, only a few cattle that survived the carnage of drought can be seen.
According to the impoverished marginalised community settled there, farming activities stopped in 2018 as they struggled to service the power bill, which was a major setback for the community, as they needed to continuously pump water for irrigation and household use.
Since then, nothing has taken place, although they said government has settled the bill and has now promised to install a solar-powered pump to help pump water from a borehole. For now, the community, which is estimated at over 3 000, relies on a school borehole, which only distributes three times a week.
Another challenge, Haneb said, was the dilapidated irrigation equipment which he says will require over N$80 000 to repair. “If we get the solar panel to resolve the water woes, we are still not going to produce anything because the equipment is broken and needs maintenance. It’s a really daunting challenge,” he said.
Meanwhile, another management member, Erastus Naoxab said they are hoping for good rains as they plan to cultivate maize and other crops, while clearing of the fields has been done.
“I took it upon myself and paid some people to assist in clearing and prepare the land, we are also trying to service the tractor because we can’t afford to leave the land idle, while we have no clear indication when our situation will be resolved,” further stated Naoxab. He is worried that if nothing is done soon, the seeds might also get spoiled, as its expiration date is closer.