By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Effective farming methods and hands-on training for farm workers are crucial in turning farmland into productive business. This emerged at a one-week practical farming training course for farm workers. The course was organised by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and Agra. A total of 22 farm workers from surrounding areas attended the course, which was held at the CCF headquarters just outside Otjiwarongo. According to training consultant Gunther Roeber, the course is expected to benefit the participants in two ways. “Its was aimed at improving the farm workers’ understanding of farming production principles and systems as well as providing hands-on practical training. (But) this course is (also) geared to include people often left out of training processes due to literacy limitations,” explained Roeber. Topics tackled were animal husbandry, herd and pasture management, vaccination programmes, animal health, conservation training on the role and value of predators, predator kill identification and conflict resolution. Developing the capacity of the country’s agricultural sector was a key reason for the course. In addition to funding, Agra provided product support for the practical training sessions. Agra’s marketing manager Birgit Hoffman said that such training is critical in a country where over 70 percent of Namibians depend on agriculture as a source of living. “Farm workers form an integral part of any successful functioning farming operation and as such, it is critical that they become efficient and effective team players in the farming team and community,” said Hoffman. The course coordinator at CCF Bonnie Schumann said the “group worked extremely hard and were motivated to learn and participate”. Feedback from the group has also been so positive that a similar course is set to run again in September this year. While CCF is a Namibian non-profit trust dedicated to the long-term survival of the cheetah and its eco-systems, it is also involved in supporting rural communities. Since 1990, the organisation has developed education and conservation programmes based on its bio-medical cheetah research studies, published scientific research papers, has presented educational programmes for over 120 000 outreach school learners and donated over 230 Anatolian livestock guarding dogs to commercial and communal farmers as part of the CCF’s innovative non-lethal livestock management programme. It has also established a cheetah genome resource bank of cheetah sperm, tissue and blood samples. On the other hand, Agra is the largest multipurpose agricultural cooperative in the country with about 7 000 Namibian shareholders. Founded in 1980 as a cooperative, profits are channelled back to the shareholders and re-invested for growth in the country. Agra offers livestock marketing services as well as retail operations through an extensive network of branches throughout Namibia. Since most of Namibia depends directly or indirectly on agriculture, the measure of Agra’s success in serving the country is based on its influence on service provision and expedited business processes in the agricultural sector.
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