n Eveline de Klerk
A couple, from Walvis Bay, Magdalene and Ronald Vermaak (both 55) is aiming to produce proudly Namibian olive oil in the near future for both national and international markets.
The couple who are passionate about farming, is currently managing a 500 olive tree plantation on a piece of land at Farm 37.
Dubbed the green village, a portion of farm 37 was set aside by council for urban agriculture, apart from the 30 000 residents that will be relocated to the area, situated 11 kilometres outside Walvis Bay.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, Ronald said that they started the olive project in 2014. However their greenhouse garden have been running for almost 15 years with the aim of transferring skills as well as training women and former prisoners as a means of rehabilitation and self-sustainability.
Ronald, who has 20 years’ experience in crop production as well as olive plantations explained that running such a project especially in the desert is not for the faint-hearted.
“Wind and sand encroachment are some of the challenges we have to deal with. Apart from that, it is a very labour intensive project and one needs patience, compassion and dedication especially in the desert where the wind and the sand is your biggest challenge,” he said.
The couple also says they so far have injected N$350 000 towards the project.
He says it takes seven years for olive to reach their full potential, adding that once they get to that level wants to produce world class olive oil for both local and international markets.
“We are not reaping any financial rewards at this stage, but we have trained so many people from all over Namibia so that they can also set up their own gardening projects in their respective regions. That alone is rewarding for us. The fact that someone can come and get skills and become self-reliant and create employment for others,” Ronald says.
Interestingly, Ronald explains that their olive trees are planted in such a way that they form the word peace and a smiley face.
“We did this to encourage peace in our country and the olive tree represents hope and peace according to the Bible,” he said
They also offer temporary employment to salvagers, who visit the Walvis Bay dumpsite, to help with sand encroachment and replanting of damaged trees.
Recently, the mayor of Walvis Bay accompanied by some of the councillors, also visited the plantation to familiarise themselves with its progress.