Twelve kilometres south of Okakarara lives a San community who regard a ride to town on a donkey cart as a special treat.
Their sick still have to walk to the medical clinic in Okakarara and this community scrapes the bottom of the barrel in an ongoing battle to survive.
“Life on the farm here at Okarui is now much better because of the Namibian German Special Initiative Programme (NGSIP) which has supplied us with livestock and the tools to become better at what we do, but we are still facing serious constraints. We simply have no transport other than a donkey cart and sick people have to walk to the clinic for treatment. We sometimes carry our sick children all the way to Okakarara,” says chief Katae Ngairo.
One of the first beneficiaries of livestock, Katitii Katuisa agrees with the chief, saying the community at large has benefitted tremendously from the German initiative. “We took our own initiative and started planting maize a few years ago and the combination of livestock and crop farming has pulled us through droughts and tough times since 2013. As livestock farmers we struggle to keep up with vaccines and other drugs and supplementary feed for our animals, but we are survivors and entrepreneurs,” she said.
An example of the entrepreneurial skills of the community is the vibrant and hyper-active Mbandee Kandanga, who has started her own lucrative business under a mopani tree.
She gathers and sells corn, peas and nuts grown on the rain-fed crop fields near her farmstead.
“Our sweet corn is simply the sweetest and the best,” she says as she proudly displays her produce after it was cooked to perfection in huge black pots, with sugar added.
She says a lack of transport is also hampering her entrepreneurial skills. “I would love to have a pickup truck available to transport my sweet corn to Okakarara and sell my products there. The demand for sweetcorn and maize products is very high,” she lamented.
Farmers on Farm Okarui recall the drought of 2013 as being the worst ever, saying grazing and crops have improved this season.
Testament to that are some cattle in good conditions of grazing and a maize field where seedlings have reached almost two metres in height.
Head of cooperation of the German Embassy Christian Grün, who accompanied the local media on a recent field trip to the north, encourages farmers to take ownership of their farming, complimenting them for their perseverance in times of devastating drought.
“You must always remain in the driver’s seat,” he noted.
The chief says the community has swelled over the years and the demands keep growing.
“We face many challenges and we have lost many animals due to the drought and predators, but our biggest problem remains transport for the 26 main beneficiaries and their families in this area,” he stresses. He says it would be ideal if the community could acquire a hammer mill and some form of modern transport.
“That way, we could mill our maize and transport the products to selling points,” he says.