Production at the 682-hectare Shadikongoro Green Scheme irrigation project comprising of a commercial and a small-scale unit in Kavango East that grows maize, barley, wheat and veggies is hampered by aging equipment, such as tractors that are 30 years old, the project manager revealed.
Vice President Nickey Imyambo, whose five-day visit to Kavango East and Kavango West ends today, after he had consultative meetings with Kavango West Governor Sirkka Ausiku and Kavango West Governor Dr Samuel Mbambo on various developmental issues and also met with local chiefs.
Dan Marais, the project manager, catalogued the multiple challenges facing the green scheme outside Rundu on Monday when he briefed the vice president, who was visiting the irrigation project that was set up to boost food production and reduce food imports that run into billions of dollars.
“Some of the tractors and implements are very old and need replacement in the years to come,” he said, a sentiment also shared by the vice president, as he immediately gave a directive to the Ministry of Agriculture to find a way around the bureaucratic red tape at Treasury to avail the necessary funds.
Marais said the project spends around N$400,000 annually on maintenance of the old tractor fleet, an amount he said was enough to buy a small tractor if the funds were used on equipment acquisition.
Shadikongoro was developed before independence in 1974 before it was inherited by the government that chose it as one of the green scheme projects initiated across the country.
Marais also said the lack of production capital hampers the green scheme project, although in the same vein he informed Iyambo that commercial farmers in neighbouring South Africa often source production capital from commercial banks to buy seeds, fertilisers and other input.
He suggested the problem of lack of production loans could be remedied if the project could be allowed to apply for a production loan from commercial banks and noted that the timely delivery of inputs is essential for timely planting to ensure optimum harvests.
“Planting started late due to cashflow constraints at the beginning of the rainy season that resulted in the late delivery of inputs,” he told Iyambo, whose delegation included Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa, Kavango East Governor Dr Samuel Mbambo, Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Tommy Nambahu and the PS of Veteran Affairs, Ambassador Hopelong Ipinge, as well as other senior government officials.
Another challenge was the outbreak of army-worms that had to be contained at great cost.
A furher obstacle faced “was the high rains that caused waterlogging” and replanting had to take place on some of the waterlogged parts of the farm, causing financial losses.
Marais also suggested the issue of low water infiltration that causes waterlogging could be rectified by the incorporation of organic material into the soil to mitigate the recurrent water saturation.
Some of the waterlogged fields could not be replanted due to the soil that was too wet to replant.
The high electricity bill is another factor that should be addressed at the farm, which is renowned for producing high quality tomatoes, butternut, onions, cabbage and potatoes for the local market.
Iyambo, who said some of the country’s development challenges are a matter of priority and deserve more attention than others, directed Minister Mutorwa to inform Treasury through Cabinet of the need to look into the possibility of procuring a fleet of tractors for the project and suggested that procurement could done be in phases.
Mutorwa in turn said he would immediately address some of the concerns raised by the project manager.