Good Millet Harvest

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By Chrispin Inambao RUNDU Thousands of peasants involved in millet farming in the Kavango Region expect a good harvest compared to the drought-resistant crop from their communal farms during the 2004/2005 season. Had it not been for the fact that excessive rainfall – not good because of the crop’s drought-resistance nature – had added to the problems of worms and locusts that had caused substantial crop losses, there could have been a record grain harvest last year. Speaking to New Era at Rundu yesterday, Robert Mupiri the Assistant Ma-hangu Officer at the Nami-bian Agronomic Board responsible for both Kavango and Caprivi, said Namib Mills will this season purchase in excess of 500 tons of millet from peasants farming in the Kavango Region alone – surpassing the amount procured last year. The mill bought at least 10 000 50 kg bags from millet farmers last year, though this year’s harvest will easily surpass that of the 2004/2005 season. “It is going to be more than last year but it could have been more,” he said in reference to the grain already being harvested by farmers. Already at its peak with some of the farmers having completed the laborious task, the Namibian Agronomic Board official expects it to conclude soon. On average, this food staple with more nutritional value than maize yields an average of five to six bags per hectare. In the area between Rundu and Bagani some 200 kilometres east of the town, groups of women could be seen carrying on their heads woven baskets laden with the harvested crop as they took it from the fields to traditional granaries. And the density and the size of both harvested and unharvested millet fields is a clear indication it is now time to harvest. Villagers also grind millet into a flour that they use for making thick porridge. Mupiri, who like many civil servants augments his income with small-scale millet farming and keeps a small herd of livestock, says people involved in brewing opaque beer by time-tested methods, also provide a ready market for mahangu. And interestingly, these buyers pay handsomely for a 50 kg bag of millet at N$150, almost double of what Namib Mills, a commercial miller, pays. On average, mahangu farmers are normally paid N$1.72 cents per kg of grain. Local families usually farm on small plots measuring up to a maximum of some five hectares or less with some of the individuals expecting to harvest up to four hundred by 50kg bags of corn. Mupiri said mahangu subsistence farmers mostly prefer kantana and the kangara varieties that grow and ripen much earlier and need little water. Though farmers will smile all the way to the bank to cash in on the good harvest after previous droughts, he said transport remains a problem. “The only problem is that of transport because most of the farmers have fields inland and they have to transport their crop to the market here in Rundu,” he said. Mupiri also said that though small-scale farmers in Caprivi prefer planting maize, there is a gradual increase in those switching to mahangu because of its economic potential plus a ready and expanding local market. Apart from being cooked into a thick porridge that is consumed with meat, fish and vegetables, its flour is also used for baking bread, cakes and producing alcohol.