OPUWO – Governor of Kunene Region Marius Sheya together with Constituency Councillor Johannes Atsino and their team visited the Neumbo family on their government resettlement farm to assess the progress of the lucerne project, the only and first of its kind in Kunene.
The Neumbo family is on a journey to undertake a project of planting lucerne on their resettlement farm, which is 54 km north-east of Outjo on the Otavi-Outjo road (C39). The size of the farm is 1 869 hectares however they have developed 10 hectares on which they have started a lucerne irrigation project.
The project’s vision is to produce quality fodder towards sustainable livestock production in Kunene – the family has undertaken to stimulate the local economy by providing affordable feed to farmers in the region.
The project will strive to stimulate and support long-term economic growth and increase cash flow in the Outjo, Khorixas, Kamanjab and Opuwo districts and support and supplement ongoing government projects in the region.
The Neumbo family has been farming for over 35 years and this has become a generational business. Now the sons (Bradley and Kenneth Neumbo) are the ones running the farm, moving the family business a step forward.
Namibia is a dry, arid country with frequent drought and below average rainfall which makes it the worst hit in terms of drought periods, which is why the Neumbo family came up with the idea of this project to tackle and alleviate the impact of drought on farmers around Kunene and Namibia as a whole, for them to access folder at cheaper prices since accessibility of fodder remains a huge problem for livestock farmers.
They plan to have distributing centres bringing the product closer to market at affordable prices, keeping in mind the Kunene is rated as the highest hit by unemployment and poverty thus through distribution centres they aim to create opportunities for locals starting up small enterprises. The distributing centres will be in Outjo, Khorixas, Kamanjab and Opuwo. “Currently farmers in the Kunene travel long distances to purchase feed from Agra in Outjo or Kaap Agri in Otjiwarongo to supplement their needs and these entities in turn purchase lucerne from other regions such as Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa and sometimes from Windhoek, which escalates feed cost that will be a thing of the past if we start producing lucene in the region ourselves,” Kenneth Gumbo emphasised.
The project will target the entire Kunene with a population of over 5 000 farmers. The good thing is that there will be no competition for them since this will be the first project to produce lucerne in Kunene.
There is a marketing plan that involves the use of digital platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and print in the local newspaper (Outjo News) and by word of mouth, which
will be their main source of advertising.
“To reduce water wastage and cost we will use the subsurface drip irrigation, which is the best solution for every climate, which outshines other irrigation methods through the advantage it delivers,” Kenneth Neumbo stressed.
Advantages of subsurface farming
– Rapid re-growth from irrigating immediately follows, and even harvesting.
– Reduce plant stress which increases the yield per cutting. It also reduces intervals between cuttings which increases the number of cuttings. There are fewer weeds because the soil surface is kept dry and it longer sustains life to produce a healthier root system, among others.
They expect a high return using the subsurface drip irrigation system and it will provide greater opportunity for growth and higher yields with less water, meaning the return on investment depends primarily on yield achieved, the price of lucerne produced and the cost of water and in many cases they have calculated a 2-3 year payback for a complete drip irrigation.
Kenneth Neumbo outlined the maintenance requirement methods that they will use in the subsurface drip irrigation system, which will depend on the water quality. He said the system will need to be flushed at regular intervals and cleaned 2-8 times per year. This cleaning normally involves flushing with either chlorine or acid to remove any algae or sediment build-up in the drip line.
To control rodents they will use products found in the market which are developed for dripline maintenance. They are an irrrtant to rodents and when injected into the dripline, will disturbs the rodents, driving them to the surface where they are vulnerable to owls and other predators. They do not want to use any poisons to kill them off – they want nature to do its work as poisons will bring other risks to the livestock feed.
*Selma Gumbo is an information officer working for the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Kunene Region.