With the diamond-mining giant, Namdeb, now gradually downsizing operations in the town of Oranjemund and the lower Orange River, an ideal opportunity has arisen for the diversification of economic activities on the land now lying unutilised.
New Era caught up with Aunie Gideon, Business Development Manager at the Omdis Nursery Pilot Project in the town. The project started in 2015 under Namdeb’s Town Infrastructure and Sustainability Department.
Gideon explained that extensive research was initially carried out to establish what type of crops could be grown on the identified land. “It was when studies showed the land to be ideal for agriculture production that we started planting seeds of 51 different crops; including onions, cabbage, green peppers, strawberries, chillies and butternuts, to mention but just a few,” Gideon stated. She added that they are now growing these crops on 2.5 hectares of land, but that plans are underway to expand it with a further 12 hectares in future.
“Up to date, an amount of N$15 million has been invested in the project, whereby 20 people are currently employed on a temporary basis,” said the manager. She continued that they are currently supplying local demand in Oranjemund, Rosh Pinah, Lüderitz and Karasburg.
“At this stage, we are supplying the Spar retail group outlets in these towns, but plans are underway to also sell the produce on a small scale at affordable prices to our local communities,” she emphasised.
Gideon continued that they are using the current 2.5 hectares of land, belonging to Namdeb, free of charge but noted they will have to lease the envisaged 12 hectares for expansion from the Oranjemund Town Council at an affordable agricultural-based rate. “Currently, we cannot draw water directly from the Orange River due to the fact that it is too far from where we are, hence, we are paying the town council for water usage at the project,” she continued.
Gideon said a preliminary feasibility study carried indicated that it would be ideal to move the project closer to the river. “For that, we will need 500 hectares of land for drip-irrigation processes to grow crops on a much larger scale,” she stated.
She added that if this project becomes a reality, it will provide jobs to 2 000 people whilst generating more income to stimulate the region’s economy as some of the products can be exported across the border to South Africa.
According to feasibility studies, there is ample water, electricity, fertile soil and also the needed infrastructure at the land earmarked for the envisaged massive agricultural project.
Said Gideon: “There are tarred roads and we will also have access to an old building equipped with cold storage facilities where meals used to be prepared previously for Namdeb employees.” She also added that the expansion will result in value addition as produce can then be frozen at the cold storage facility, thereby preserving and extending the shelf life for export purposes.
The business development manager, however, regarded the fact that the land identified lies within the Tsau-Khaib National Park as their biggest challenge to kick-start the project.
“We have to strategise on how to access that land through negotiations with the relevant stakeholder, namely Namdeb and the relevant line ministries, but we are confident in succeeding,” she stressed.
Gideon concluded that only the sky will be the limit once the project becomes fully operational, which she said has the potential to transform Oranjemund into the next agricultural hub in the country.