By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
Slowly but surely, the farming community here is now increasingly visiting the Agriculture Extension Office, to the pleasure and satisfaction of Ewald Tjihuro, the new kid on the block as far as agricultural extension is concerned.
Tjihuro is head of this office.
Having been in the area for two months only, following a transfer from Opuwo in the Kunene Region where he spent about nine years sharing ideas with farmers on best practices in animal husbandry and the cultivation of land, Tjihuro already knows what his focus is here.
With the advance farmers here have made in animal breeding, he thinks it is time that they shift focus to the cultivation of land. Not that they must altogether bid animal husbandry goodbye, but need to turn to working the land as a means of diversifying their farming activities.
In this regard, he has been gearing up the community for introduction to draught animal power (DAP) through a training workshop in the middle of this month. This time around, he does not expect the trainees to come here but he will be taking the training right to their homesteads in the villages.
This is partly to give them training in their own environments as well as to make his office more accessible to farmers by going to them in line with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s approach that agricultural technicians should spend 75 percent of their time in the field and only 25 percent in the office.
This is as much as he thinks that field trips are not necessary all the time. The training which accommodates about 15 people, among them eight women, covers, among others, basics in gardening, animal rearing, planting and animal health.
He thinks there is no better start to attain Vision 2030 than with a backyard garden planting onions, tomatoes, etc. for home consumption by buying N$10 seeds instead of buying the basics every day at more than N$10.
He says backyard gardening may lead to other big projects and subsequently Vision 2030 may be in reach. The target is for a diversification of farming activities among the farming community here, to a ratio of 60 to 40 in land cultivation and animal rearing.
Instead of selling animals for the necessary cash flow for daily needs, vegetables could serve this purpose, Tjihuro reckons.
Given that the agricultural technicians who were here before him seem to have moved the farming community a mile forward in terms of animal rearing, diversification to the cultivation of land is necessary. This is further motivated by the lack of interest in land cultivation that Tjihuro has come to notice among the farming community since his posting here.
Since his arrival, he has been crisscrossing the area to make the community aware that the office is up and running again. When the office was without an agricultural technician, somehow community use and interest in it was low.
This is a situation that Tjihuro has been countering. Slowly he is getting there.
“The community must know that someone is now in charge of the office and must visit it daily. Even if it is only to get everyday information,” he appeals.
He thinks the office can only be useful if the community visits it.
They must not only visit the office but must also come up with suggestions for projects so that at the end of the day, the office does not impose projects on the community but the community owns its own initiatives and projects.
In terms of animal rearing, Tjihuro does not find the constituency more challenging than the Kunene Region where he was. The people of both areas are animal rearers only that for the people of Kunene animals are still important culturally as opposed to their counterparts here where animals now have a market value.
Agriculture is not a chance career for Tjihuro as he hails from a farming family. This motivated him to enroll with first Tsumis Agricultural College and thereafter Neudam Agricultural College, where he completed his studies in agricultural extension.