Land Once Desolate and Barren is Now Their Own Paradise

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By Surihe Gaomas WARMBAD They waited for close to one year to get this piece of land, which they can now call their own. It was just barren land with relics of broken-down machines and pumps when they came here for the first time. “It was just bush, bush and more bush everywhere,” said resettled farmer, Jacobus Frederiks, stretching out his hand to point to over 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 hectares of farmland in the Warmbad district area in the south. We had to practically start from scratch with our own bare hands,” said the 58-year-old farmer as he stood behind his kraal of bleating goats and sheep. For him and his wife, Hester, owning a piece of land was a great achievement – a place they could call their own. Now, two years down the line, the land once desolate and barren has been turned into a paradise of different fruit trees and a farm area for cattle, goats and sheep. He says that running and maintaining a resettlement farm successfully is all about patience. It was a long wait of one year to get the farm from government, and two more years to make it productive and sustainable – all by themselves. “We are happy here now, but it was not easy to get where we are today,” said Hester as she stirred the pot on the smoking fire. She and her husband wake up at five o’clock – the crack of dawn – and attend to the animals in the kraal. This also involved ploughing, watering the trees and checking the animals. They work outside until 11 o’clock in the morning. Thereafter, the scorching southern sun forces them to resort to household chores that can be done under the shade. “It can get bloody hot around here. The sun drains your energy, so one has to take a break or a midday nap at times,” said Jacobus, closing the small steel gate to the kraal. With enough water supply and resources, the Frederiks couple are among the few resettled farmers who are doing exceptionally well on their farms. “When we got this farm we thought this was an opportunity we could not allow to slip through our hands. This was an opportunity the government gave us, so we had to do something productive with it,” added Hester. In many instances, one tends to farms which fail to be productive after local farmers had the opportunity to do something with them. In most cases, due to lack of resources and skills, many such farmers end up with unproductive farmlands. However, from their own sweat and the income from their livestock, the Fredericks couple have managed to make it work out for themselves. “We have water and solar energy, the livestock are fat and we only slaughter one goat or sheep in a month. Our ancestors always told us that you have to eat from the kraal to make it grow. So we are happy,” said Jacobus. Next to their house is a relic of the previous white framer’s house which they have converted into an historical building for those who visit them. “This was a rich white farmer’s place, but we have decided to leave it there for our children and grandchildren to know the history of our past. Its been there since 1974,” said Hester. However, all was not bliss for the Frederiks couple. They have to face the challenge of obtaining electricity. For a long time now, they have been struggling to source electricity through NamPower, but this would mean having to forfeit four sheep every month just to pay the monthly bill. “We want prepaid electricity, but it is not easy. We also applied for a generator from the Ministry of Lands, but we have not received any response so far.” As a result, they have decided to make use of solar energy on a small scale for their day-to-day living. They further advised that the Ministry of Lands hands over newly-resettled farms to its owners much quicker, as they fall prey to thieves stealing vital resources like pumps which could have been used by the new farm-owners. However, due to the slow resettlement process, most farms are stripped bare before the newcomers take over and have to start from scratch. Despite all this, it has so far been fairly smooth-sailing for the Frederiks couple. All they can think of now is the picking of grapes, oranges, lemons, dates and figs from the back garden for a fresh salad to enjoy with their daughters and grandchildren this festive season.