WINDHOEK – The Kalimbeza commercial rice project, situated some 40 kilometres north-east of Katima Mulilo in the Zambezi Region, is yet to acquire mechanised rice transplanters for it to increase production and do away with the current manual process, which failed to yield any desired results and failed to promote rice cultivation in the country, since the inception of the project.
Since its implementation by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the University of Namibia (Unam), Kalimbeza, which started off as a pilot project in 2007, has been using a manual process to plant its three varieties of rice – Angola, Irga and Supa.
To date, the Kalimbeza Rice Project has not lived up to its expectations and aims to promote rice cultivation in the region and the country as a whole and to make Namibia self-sufficient in rice production.
Equally, with the current drought situation being experienced over the years, the project also failed to contribute to national food security and at the same time did not do much to improve the income of poor rural farmers in the Zambezi Region. Also, only a few people secured employment as most people from the surrounding areas were employed as casual labourers.
Commenting on the status of the project in an interview with New Era on Monday, project manager, Patrick Kompeli, rubbished claims that the project is a flop as critics claim government keeps pumping in millions of dollars year in year out. However, Kompeli emphasised that “it is not a flop at all”.
Instead, he blamed operations such as transplanting, harvesting and sorting, which are still done manually, as a setback. He said the manual process has failed to yield the expected results of increased production because plantation of rice could only be done on a small-scale.
“It was only transferred into a green scheme last year. All along it was a pilot project. We were just starting and people can’t just say it’s a flop. We were unable to produce more because we are still waiting for rice transplanters. We wanted to go into full production once we get the machines in place. We are still planting manually on a small-scale of only up to 50 hectares (ha) instead of the 108ha, which is suitable for rice out of the total area of 193 ha,” he defended.
When asked when the machinery will arrive, Kompeli said, “I am informed that the tender is out to acquire four additional machines.”
Although, he said the ministry already acquired one transplanter in 2012, he could not say how much the machines will cost and from where they will be secured.
When asked why the rice has for many years failed to make it onto the local market, he said they were unable to find a competent consultant for the marketing and branding of the rice.
“We are unable to take the rice to the local shops because it does not have a name yet. First it must be branded for people to recognize it. Last year, no one met the requirements and the tender was re-advertised again,” Kompeli noted.
He, however, said rice has been sold through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and also directly from the project.
When questioned on the current activities at the project, Kompeli said they are milling the Irga rice that was harvested on a 15 ha piece of land in January. Additionally, he said they have also just completed planting Supa rice on a 20 ha piece of land. Regarding the Angola rice variety, he said they only planted on a 6 ha piece of land and are now harvesting the fields.