FARM 37 – The transition to Farm 37, also known as Green Valley, has begun at a slow pace, with only one family successfully moving from backyard squatting to their land in the new township.
Farm 37 was identified in 2016 by the late Erongo governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua, as a solution to the housing shortage facing the town. It is situated about 7km east of Walvis Bay.
Currently, approximately 50 000 residents are either renting or living in backyard shacks, exposing them to deplorable living conditions, while the housing backlog is estimated to be around 30 000.
In August, the current council allocated erven to 50 backyard squatters as a pilot phase. However, only one family has been living in the new township for the past two months.
The unserviced erven cost N$40 000. Initially priced at N$80 000, residents requested a reduced price so they could service the plots themselves.
Farm 37’s first family
When New Era visited the family on Friday, they described their stay as lonely but peaceful. They view it as a life-changing experience, as they can now proudly call themselves landowners.
“Yes, it is far, but the best part is that we own this piece of land, and we do not have to worry about shack fires, rent or any challenges with bathrooms,” said Hilma Lineekela, a member of the family.
They had been living in shacks since 2007.
Their prayers for land were finally answered when they were selected to be part of the first fifty people to be allocated plots by the council this year.
Lineekela is a small business owner, while her husband is self-employed; he has started making bricks for the construction of their home.
Before moving to Farm 37, their family had been renting a backyard space with 20 other people in Kuisebmond, each paying N$1 000 rent.
Lineekela now contributes that money toward the family’s building materials and pays off their plot to the municipality.
Despite the challenges of living in a new township, Lineekela remains faithful that owning their own home is no longer a distant reality.
She encourages others who have received erven to relocate and save their hard-earned money to build their own homes at their own pace.
“The notion that Farm 37 is far should not be a reason to continue living in someone else’s backyard. People in other towns also started like us, and services, such as schools, shops and electricity eventually came. Therefore, we all must start somewhere – and here, at least you’re paying for your piece of land,” Lineekela emphasised.
When asked how the family copes with going to Walvis Bay, Lineekela mentioned they do not struggle with transport, as the road is frequently used by cars. They also ensure their groceries are up to date to avoid unnecessary trips.
“We are happy here; it is very quiet, peaceful and safe. I encourage all those who received plots to come and set up their homes. It is worth it,” she said.
On the council’s efforts to address the housing demand in Walvis Bay, deputy mayor Saara Mutondoka stated that beneficiaries were given a grace period of six months to relocate and construct their homes.
However, she acknowledged that the transition to Green Valley is challenging for some due to the lingering effects of Covid-19.
“Some people who got land indicated they will only be able to move by December, as they have school-going children – but as of now, they’re still within that time frame that was given to them,” she said.
Mutondoka added that the relocation of the first 50 families is just the beginning, as plans are underway to move the second group – residents who have been living in the clubhouse in Narraville.
“This is about 24 people. They have already signed contracts and have also indicated their willingness to relocate. We have also engaged victims of the last shack fire, and 11 of them are moving over the weekend. The group of the last five victims has also been engaged, and they have signed their contracts. People are eager to move – and hopefully, the family living alone at Green Valley will have neighbours,” said Mutondoka.
Pombili Festus, a committee member of the backyard tenants, told New Era they have been allocated a portion at Green Valley to accommodate about 2 000 members.
However, their biggest challenge is funding to service their portion so they can start constructing their homes.
“We are currently raising money through various initiatives, which is difficult. We will only move once we can service our portion. So far, we have paid the N$50 000 deposit to a company that is managing our town planning and related matters. The rough draft suggests that there will be one plot for a school, preferably a combined school. Once we are done with the services and have coordinated with the ministry of education, we will start moving there, so that we do not have the challenge of people moving from Farm 37, taking their kids to Kuiseb,” explained Festus.
He added that earlier this year, they appealed to the government to allocate fishing quotas that would enable the town to service land at Farm 37, ensuring a smooth transition for those allocated plots.
First family… Hilma Lineekela and her family currently live alone on Farm 37.
Photo: Eveline de Klerk
Photos: Eveline de Klerk