Minister Learning to Farm

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Black farmers who are entering the commercial sector, including members of parliament, last night completed a one-week course in Livestock Management in the capital. The course, which was conducted by Agrifutura, aims to bring local farmers in line with the latest technology in farming methods. Among the course participants were Deputy Prime Minister Dr Libertina Amathila, Minister of Lands and Resettlement Jerry Ekandjo, politicians Clara Bohitile and Hans Boois as well as Minister of Safety and Security Peter Tsheehama and some emerging farmers. The close to six parliamentarians who attended the course only recently acquired farms and bought some livestock through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme. Speaking to New Era, the Deputy Prime Minister who acquired a farm in the Nina District in the Omaheke Region, said the course was enriching in terms of learning new techniques in productive farming. Unlike in the past, it also appears that more women are entering the farming sector, as the need for productive farming becomes a common phenomenon. Thus the deputy prime minister sees the latest course on livestock management by Agrifutura as valuable food for thought when it comes to how to manage a newly acquired farm. “I now know how to manage my farm better, like for instance how many cattle you need for one bull and the best ways to cross-breed your livestock”, said Amathila who only finds time to farm over the weekends due to her busy schedule. Currently, the deputy premier farms mainly with Damara sheep and 14 head of cattle on the farm. “I used to have one ram for 80 sheep which is not good for productivity”, she added laughingly, saying there was a need to bring more rams into the kraal for effective results at the end of the day. Similarly, the wife to the Minister of Land and Resettlement, Loide Ekandjo, said she was happy with the way she was farming with her husband on a farm called “Vooruitgang” in the Hochveld area. “I am only a weekend farmer and I was a teacher before I left the profession and went into business”, said Mrs Ekandjo, adding that with the newly acquired knowledge from the course, she would venture into improving her stock. Echoing the same sentiments, Lands Minister Jerry Ekandjo said due to the high number and variety of game on the farm, they are thinking of moving into turning a part of the farm into a game farm as a part for trophy hunting. Hunting is also regarded as one of the most lucrative and viable uses of land and wild species in a more productive manner. “We are in the process of turning close to 300 to 400 hectares into a game farm for eland, wildebeest, water buck, impalas and springbok”, explained the Minister. He noted he would like to go full-time into game farming when he retires from politics. It appears many local black farmers still resort to traditional methods of farming which is not very profitable. That is why commercial livestock management is of vital importance, especially for emerging local farmers and farm owners who themselves can know how best to approach this situation. “As beginners in the farming world, it is very good to attend such courses and for me it’s a blessing in disguise”, said Peter Tsheehama, Minister of Safety and Security, after receiving his attendance certificate on Wednesday night. “When you have a farm, you have to think of going commercial, which is good thing. You need to meet all the requirements; like for example how and when to vaccinate your cattle for instance, the type of feed that’s needed and having a sound knowledge of the gestation period”, explained the Minister, adding that it was his first time that he attended such a course. Tsheehama, who’s been farming for the past five years, owns a 2000hectare plot of land in the Otjiwarango area with 200 cattle. Other new methods that emerging farmers like Joel Namboa and Fenastus Hoeseb learnt are dehorning and how to produce good bulls. Speaking to New Era after the course, the director of Agrifutura and course co-ordinator Collin Usurua said it had been a successful and comprehensive course on productive farming methods in the commercial sector. The reason why they encouraged parliamentarians to take part in the course is that as farm owners, they also needed to know more about the trade. “You can’t apply traditional farming methods on commercial land while at the same time wanting to pay off the loan. How can you pay it off if the land and livestock are not managed productively”, asked Usurua. He added that there is still a lack of knowledge when it comes to livestock management. “Its not about quantity of cattle but quality”, he emphasised. It is anticipated that courses from Agrifutura will assist emerging farmers to have the technical knowledge and skills how to manage farms properly, without leaving them to become less productive. “Farmers are given loans, but are not well informed about productive farming”, said Usurua. He concluded that the attendance of parliamentarians shows the determination and commitment on their part to learn new farming methods. A similar course for emerging farmers is scheduled for September this year.