By William J Mbangula
Heavy rains and subsequent flooding in the north have spared no one including aspiring rice producers from the Omusati region.
This emerged during a recent rice producer field day at Ogongo Agriculture College (OAC) where farmers, agriculture extension officers from the Omusati and Caprivi regions, traditional leaders, officials from the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the University of Namibia and visitors from Nagoja School of Bio-agricultural Science in Japan came together to share technical know-how and skills related to rice farming.
One of the successful rice farmers from Oshiteyatemo village in Okalongo Constituency, Rauna Kleopas told the gathering that unlike the previous years when she used to have a bumper harvest, it is a different story this year due to heavy rains and flooding.
Her field got flooded immediately after planting in January.
Heavy rains and flooding have spoiled almost every rice farmer’s envisaged full-scale rice production under the technical supervision of the extension officers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and lecturers from Ogongo Agriculture College. With technical assistance from the ministry and OAC, plans are under way to establish a common body to be known as the Namibia Rice Growers Association.
The body will serve as a conduit to channel financial assistance and to provide a platform for farmers to disseminate and share technical information related to their farming activities.
Spearheaded by Unam Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Luke Kanyomeka, rice production has attracted many farmers in and around the Omusati region.
Speaking during the occasion, University of Namibia Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources Professor, Godwin Kaaya, encouraged farmers to fulfil their noble task of producing food for the country.
He commended the farmers for accepting rice as one of their regular crops in order to make the country self-sufficient in food production. He said this was necessary because most of the rice consumed in Namibia is imported.
“Unam (the University of Namibia) is here to help and provide all the necessary training and advice on how to farm with different varieties. You are at liberty to request information from Unam and its partners on how to produce rice successfully.”
This year’s rice producers’ field day was attended by Dr Morio Iijima, an Associate Professor from the Nagoya Graduate School of Bio-agricultural Science where two Namibians are currently studying rice production science. The duo are Simon Auala, who is due to complete his masters degree towards the end of this month and Pamwenafye Nanhapo, who will proceed to the doctorate level next year.
A third Namibian, Petrus Ausiku, is due to join his colleagues next month for a masters degree studies. Their studies are sponsored by the Government of Japan and the Japanese International Co-operation Agency. Apart from those studying abroad, there are two other students doing their fourth and third year bachelors degrees in crop science specialising in rice production at Ogongo Agriculture College
Dr Iijima who said his country has been producing rice for about 2000 years now, came to demonstrate to the local farmers how to farm rice including planting, harvesting and milling.
Rice farming here is the brainchild of Dr Kanyomeka, a crop scientist from Zambia who wants to impart knowledge and technical know-how to the locals. He has been networking with renowned rice experts such as the West Africa Rice Development Association based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where he has received about 12 rice varieties. Some varieties were obtained from Japan and Brazil. Close to 100 of them are being experimented at Ogongo.
However, there are only 20 to 25 varieties needed for distribution to local farmers. Other relevant information on rice production was obtained from the International Rice Research Institute in Manila, Philippines. The varieties from West Africa and Asia were combined to form the New Rice for Africa, a very strong variety for the local environmental conditions.