By Wezi Tjaronda
Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister, Nickey Iyambo, said the Karakul industry should claim back its glory for the sake of the lives of people in Namibia.
Unveiling a Karakul Statue erected to pay tribute to the contribution the industry has made to Namibia over the last 100 years, Iyambo said the industry could still be re-established as in years back when more than 3 million pelts were produced.
Iyambo unveiled the statue, in the heart of Keetmanshoop town, to the sound of cheers.
The festival was the climax of events organised to mark 100 years of the coming of Karakul sheep to Namibia in 1907 on September 24. The first 10 ewes and 12 rams from central Asia have grown into what is today one of the most sought-after commodity in the fashion industry.
The statue, sculptured by 23-year-old Cristina Salvoldi, depicts a Nama shepherd holding a newborn Karakul lamb with a fully-grown Karakul ram standing next to the shepherd.
The unveiling, which was preceded by a street parade, was witnessed by hundreds of people including farmers clad in shirts bearing the Karakul logo, politicians, Government officials, company representatives and school children.
Iyambo said Swakara – the trademark for Karakul pelts in Namibia – has made the country a special country with a special product. Karakul pelts are termed the “Black Diamond” locally.
The Cabinet has recognised the strategic importance of the Karakul industry.
Iyambo said the industry should receive the same recognition as alluvial diamonds, which also emanate from the south.
“If alluvial diamonds are so important to Namibia, then Swakara is just as important, as both have their origin in the Karas Region,” he said.
Keetmanshoop Mayor, Fiina Elago, said the centenary was a time to reflect on the good and bad times the industry has gone through. She said the pelts were one of the country’s most important commodities because of its rising demand especially in the clothing industry.
Elago said although Karakul products are exported overseas and its wool mainly to South Africa, the industry presented other opportunities for value addition.
“We need to aggressively diversify the industry. Further growth of this industry would benefit more residents of this region,” she said.
As part of the centenary celebrations, a DVD documenting the history of the Karakul sheep in Namibia, as well as a Swakara memorial book have also been produced.