Retired communication specialist and subsistence farmer Anne-Nora Lameck has turned in another bumper harvest this year, which is her fourth bounty year, despite the fact that virtually the entire country has been reeling under severe drought that has left many households destitute and killed thousands of livestock across the country. Kundana Editor Desie Heita spoke to Lameck on her farming success the last lean years.
Desie Heita (DH): How do you manage to have such a good harvest when, seemingly, every other subsistence farmer has been suffering the effect of persistent drought?
Anne-Nora Lameck (ANL): Hard work is the game to a good harvest. My team at Oupili [in Ohangwena Region’s Okongo district] are so dedicated that they always make sure that if some of the crops are not doing well during planting, they will replant and transplant to other areas where their crops are not doing well.
DH: Do you use a different seasonal timetable that allows you to have such a good harvest, while other farmers experience lesser bounty harvests?
ANL: I always target the first rain in December, but that does not mean that I used a different seasonal timetable. I wish I had a borehole to irrigate my crops so that when the rains start in December, they will not die or so.
DH: What agricultural techniques and advice would you like to share with other subsistence farmers?
ANL: I am still an old-fashioned person who uses oxen to plough the whole field but what I could share with other subsistence farmers who use oxen like I do is that they have to look after their animals well before ploughing time. They need to gather pods and dry melons to keep them in good condition to enable them to plough. I also advise those who have no cattle or goats to gather manure from water ponds, in forests or under trees where animals rest. I tried tractors but I have no luck with them – where they plough we always have problems of replanting, so maybe another technique will be found. We need to work hard and not be deterred from working harder when insects invade our fields or when the rain stops a bit. We need to monitor our fields always, check where the crops are not good and see what could be done. We need to come together sometimes and learn from one another. The problem is sometimes when somebody is doing great, we tend to be intimated instead of seeking advice. I will be available to new ideas from my fellow subsistence farmers and I will also be ready to advise those who need my assistance.
DH: Tell us more about the size of the crop field, and the crops being cultivated and harvested here?
ANL: This piece of land is not yet measured but it is nearly 20 hectares. The crops being cultivated and harvested there are mahangu, sorghum (oilyavala), all assorted melons, snake beans, nuts (eefukwa) and calabashes (oikola). I am planning to extend my field this year by a hectare or more since I am going to be there permanently now. We will see what will happen next year this time.
DH: Is there a specific reason why you chose these specific crops for cultivation?
ANL: This is our traditional crop that I grew up doing and that is what I am good at, than other modern businesses. My mother taught us not to lose our culture and must always work hard. Her words always click into my ears and I will never disappoint her wherever she is. We will always make improvements in our method of cultivating and plan for better than the other year. One never knows maybe mahangu and other traditional crops we cultivate will find a market outside Namibia.
DH: You have been experiencing good harvests for the past four seasons. What do you do with the harvest? Is it all for consumption or do you sell some?
ANL: Yes, God is great and I praise him every day. For every harvest, I do invite my neighbours and all those who assisted us during the harvesting to come for thanksgiving (oshipe). I do sell some to those who need mahangu and the rest is for our consumption and give some to those I think need to be assisted. We live in communities where we have to support and assist each other whenever we can. Since I will be there on a full-time basis now, I am going to market my products intensively and will produce more for the market.
DH: When did you set up your homestead at Oupili? And when you arrived there, did you know that the field, the soil, is that rich and would give you such good harvests?
ANL: This was a long time ago, when I was in my forties [laughs], when I set up my homestead and did not think that it will prosper as today. I wanted to sell it when things were not going well – I was young and thought I do not need village life but thanks to my friend, Mee Ndamona Ndeulita who sat me down and educated me on what the future holds for me. Till today, I am thankful for her advice.