A delegation headed by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Hon. Maureen Hinda and Foreign Affairs Vice Minister of Italy, Dr Mario Giro visited the Pelt Centre earlier this month, to familiarise themselves with swakara production and its value chain, while establishing opportunities for support and partnership. During the visit, the Swakara board members and Pelt Centre colleagues shared the swakara golden story with the distinguished guests.
Bernd Rothkegel, Swakara board member gave a brief history on swakara farming in Namibia and emphasized the strategic importance of the sheep breed for the less endowed and arid southern parts of the country substantially contributing to the wellbeing of rural communities. He said that Swakara/Karakul farming started in Namibia more than 100 years ago. “The first twelve karakul sheep (ten ewes and two rams) arrived in Swakopmund on 24 September 1907. The Karakul sheep, whose origin can be traced to Buchara Steppe in Uzbekistan thrived well in the arid semi desert conditions in southern and western Namibia. Over the years, Swakara farming developed into a meaningful economic force.” he explained. He continued by sharing the functions of the Swakara board, as he said: “the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia is mandated to promote the industry within Namibia and elsewhere.. The end product of swakara farming are beside wool, pelts auctioned bi-annually at the wellknown fur auction house Kopenhagen Fur in Denmark at the April and September auctions respectively.”
Jaco van Zyl, Agra’s Swakara Officer explained the swakara value chain, from production to catwalk. He said: “The swakara farming value chain begins with the farmer producing pelts according to the acceptable standards and norms. The farmers’ hand in their pelts which are immediately registered with a unique bar code, to ensure that they hold an identification that can be traced back to the producers. The Pelt Centre adds value by sorting pelts according to their different characteristics of colour, size, hair length and hair quality.” He continued, “The pelts are then shipped to Kopenhagen Fur for auction, where international bidders compete for the pelts. The farmer takes responsibility of the pelts until the hammer drops at the auction house. After buying the pelts, they are then transformed into fashion items such as garments and accessories.”
The delegates were impressed by the manner in which Swakara business is conducted, especially because they operate under strict international standards of animal welfare, to ensure that animals do not suffer. Swakara is also part of the International Fur Federation, a body that promotes and encourages high standards of animal welfare, product quality and safety.
The Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Honourable Dr. Mario Giro, was on a two-day visit to Namibia to discuss possible cooperation on strengthening the existing relations in the fields of stone and marble industry; training and skills transfer; renewable energy, leather production and tourism; amongst others. Namibia and Italy entered into diplomatic relations on 20 April 1990. Italy supported Namibia through development programs, such as the Oshivelo-Omutsegwonime-Okankolo Rural Water Project, the Integrated Agro-Industrial Development project for Tsumeb (FAO), the exporting and re-exporting of marbles, and the HIV/AIDS and Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development programs.
Italy 1: Bernd Rothkegel, Swakara board member; H.E Pietro Giovanni Donnici, Italian Ambassador accredited to Namibia based in Pretoria; Hon. Maureen Magreth Hinda, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation; Hon. Dr Amrio Giro, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation with a Mandate for Italian Development Cooperation; Mr Raffaele De Lutio, Director for Sub-Saharan Africa of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Paulus Apollus, Swakara board member and Jenny Korner, Swakara Administrator.
Italy 2: Jaco van Zyl (left) and Dr Mario Giro proudly showing a swakara garment designed by a Namibian designer.