A Namibian young-man from Aus, a small rural community in southern Namibia, Valde Leonard, is passionate about agriculture and food production.
Leonard co-founded VNA Native Foods in 2007, but the operation started in 2009 with a primary focus of adding value to indigenous Namibian and African food.
According to him, his main product is Omboga Vegetable Soup. This is a powdered soup made from African spinach and other ingredients, which is very nutritious. The soup is like any other soup product that is added to stew. Leonard stated that the soup comes in three different flavours namely, original, chilli, and minestrone.
Omboga Vegetable Soup has penetrated the Windhoek markets through Woerman and Brock stores as well as a few independent retailers and Leonard is negotiating with other towns for possible sales. He said the plan is to penetrate the entire Namibian market by March 2021 and aims to start exporting within the next 18 months.
“We have received positive responses from those people who got a chance to consume our product. Overall sales are still low because the public is not yet fully aware of the product as well as where to find the product, hence, the company is embarking on an aggressive marketing campaign,” explained Leonard.
Currently, VNA Native Foods have four permanent employees and more than 10 seasonal harvesters. Leonard added that the pandemic adversely impacted his operations.
“The company was supposed to officially enter the market by the first half of 2020, but because of the pandemic, all our processes were severely delayed, and we were thus only able to launch at the end of September,” he noted.
Leonard further advised Namibian youth to have faith, work hard, and be innovative to adapt to the business environment. In an interview with the New Era, he encouraged consumers to support local products so that the Namibian dollar circulates locally, thereby building local wealth.
One of the key challenges for VNA Foods in the past was a lack of capital for market research and concept testing, but according to Leonard, the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) came to his rescue. He further stated that suppliers at times charge him unreasonable amounts and at the level of his operations, this adds too much to his expenses. “My other key challenge is distribution and raw material acquisition. But I believe to soon overcome this.”
Leonard attended all his junior grades in Aus, and secondary grades in Keetmanshoop at P.K De Villiers secondary school. He is a qualified para-veterinarian from the University of Namibia where he spent four years from 2013 to 2016. After finishing university, he worked as a vet nurse for a year and eight months at a private clinic as well as a charity organization.