By Surihe Gaomas GOBABIS Cattle farming is not for the faint hearted, especially when you have to start on a resettlement farm where half of the property allocated to you was ransacked and the land is amass with bushes. This is exactly how a Gobabis district farmer at Skoonheid found her 150 hectares plot eleven years ago, but with determined vigour managed to turn an unproductive area into a prosperous small farm. It is her sheer hard work and sweat that today makes her a proud farmer. “You must work harder than others and sometimes you even have to forget that you’re a woman. A woman farmer just has to be a little bit more strict and hard to get her desired goal.” Resettled farmer Cynthia Araes managed to successfully develop a small green paradise in the heart of Farm Skoonheid, 180 kilometers from Gobabis in the Omaheke Region. Achieving so much with the little that she had as fully-fledged farmer, Araes is all smiles with what’s she’s accomplished since 1995. When the New Era team arrived on her 150 hectares farm around 07:00 that morning, one could notice the vast stretches of maize plants revealing its ripe mielie cobs planted on two hectares of land, close to 100 cattle, 80 goats, 30 sheep, a sizeable section of orange and lemon plantations, water-melon gardens and a milling grinder for maize-meal production, plus a small village shop. With worn-out hands and a tired look, this farmer in her late 40’s still feels that with more land space she can achieve much more at the end of the day. “If the place is too small or becomes overcrowded I won’t be able to farm here for too long,” she said, adding that the mountain was not an easy one to climb at all. Being here through the resettlement programme since 1993, Araes first had to de-bush the area and it was only two years later that she managed to start farming. “When I experienced water problems at Vergenoeg Farm, I decided to apply for this plot which took a long time to get, because they first resettled people from Khorixas,” said the determined farmer walking around her plot. As part of the resettlement programme, Areas was placed with four other family groups to share a 600 hectares plot. However, for a very ambitious person that strives to prosper, this was a limited option. “I can only have a limited number of cattle and Agribank promised at the time that if I grow, I would be moved to a bigger plot of land, but nothing has happened so far,” she said shrugging her shoulders in dismay. It was cumbersome task to clear up an area that was encroached with bushes when she first came in the early 90’s. “Bushes were everywhere and we had no place to sleep but only in this yellow caravan,” explained the farmer telling an interesting tale of how she luckily survived an attack from a mamba snake found in the caravan. “The mamba was there and my fiancÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© told me not to move, them suddenly he shot it dead,” she said recollecting the moment. As time progressed, she built a few housing structures from corrugated iron as well as a few mud huts for her San workers, with whom she shares her profits as well. After some accomplishments, tragedy struck when she lost her entire flock of 30 sheep to lightning. “I don’t know what happened on that specific day, but it was raining with lightning that previous night. When I came out to check my animals, I saw all my sheep dead on the ground,” said the woman waving the stick to the area where the incident occurred. Due to the wet rainy conditions most of the small stock had to be kept outside the kraals to avoid the breeding of diseases. Yet another headache for most farmers in the Skoonheid area are the poisonous plants that grow as result of the rains. “Look, look this is what killed my two milk cows recently,” she said. However, despite the difficulties she managed to brush herself up again and having started with only 33 cattle a few years ago she’s managed to more than double the herd. These include mainly mixed cattle of Brahmans and Simmentaler bulls which she bought regularly at auctions in and around the Gobabis district. Its 12:00 midday, the cackling sound of chickens suddenly erupts as she walks in with a sack full of chicken feed scattering them on the ground. Her three grandchildren stand and watch attentively. “I believe in self-sufficiency and you won’t get anywhere in life if you don’t do something for yourself,” said Araes, throwing the last handful of chicken feed, before going to the fireplace to prepare lunch for her family. Times are hard for farmers like Areas this time of the year – snakes crawling the area killed two calves last month. The good but late rains have also resulted in the growth of weeds and the prevalence of jackals and cheetahs, which at times attack farmers’ small stock. Word was also going round that an elephant was roaming the Skoonheid area instilling fear in local farmers. “We don’t have the right to shoot any wild animals here because if you have a weapon on resettlement farms you have to have a licence or apply for one,” added her brother Erwin Araeb as he sat eating his meal around the fireplace. As the sun begins to set the lighting of a candle placed on the wooden table signals more hard times ahead, as there’s been no electricity for the past three years now. Tucking the grandchildren to bed, after a hard day’s labour, the only dream that Araes wants one day is for her to get a bigger plot to grow her cattle farming business, maybe at places like Otjinene or Summerdown where there are vast stretches of farmland area. “I just love cattle farming and I was born to do it,” she concluded with a smile.
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