WINDHOEK – Unlike those waiting and pinning their hopes on manna to fall from heaven, the haven of the government’s resettlement programme, albeit with little hope with such being only for the selected anointed few, Manfred Rahimisa Ngaujake is a self-affirmed farmer.
Initially from the Aminuis Constituency, a remnant of the descendants of the 1904-1908 genocide by Imperial Germany against the Nama and Ovaherero who trekked to Aminuis with their traditional leaders, among them Hosea Kutako, following their release from the concentration camps in 1908, following the political-tribal turmoil of the 1970s, to evade the then explosive situation, in 1977 he again trekked to the communal area of Otjombinde with his mother. There he joined his nephew, Claudius Heuva, one of the discoverers and founders of today’s Otjombinde communal area in the Otjombinde Constituency of Omaheke Region.
Rather than seeing and allowing their handful of livestock to perish from the merciless Kalahari environs, among the first livestock driven with the first trek to Otjombinde, he followed them. In those days every penny counted as pitiful as remuneration of Africans in those days was. It was stashed away to one day become a pound to afford a goat, sheep or cattle. Ngaujake and his peers of the time also formed a development stokvel [club], about ten of them with the likes of Gebhardt Hengari, Erastus Tjiundikua Kahuure, Sondi Tjiroze, and Aphas Katjivirue.
Once in Otjombinde, slowly and surely his hard work started to pay off but same invoking and inviting jealousy from fellow farming inhabitants. Unlike among the Oshiwambo-speaking people, where progress is encouraged, in the Ovaherero community it is looked upon with disdain and destruction. “If you start to show progress then you become an enemy,” Ngaujake testifies based on his experience. He sort of became a persona non grata in his village with a campaign for his eviction. In the opinion of some fellow village farmers he was now a rich man with his herd supposedly depleting the common grazing, if not overcrowding it.
Negativism and increasing tension prompted Ngaujake to try the uncharted waters of commercial farming, okuhungama otjikamba meyuru, as he puts it in Otjiherero. Literally meaning daring the cloud in the sky. “This is what I did, I looked for a piece of land where I am today,” relates Ngaujake about the farm he bought with a loan from the Agricultural Bank of Namibia. Commercial farming proved a completetly different endeavour from communal farming. “When the whites sell you land, it means that they have finished with that land,” says Ngaujake about the challenges on the farm. “But fortunately there were a few leaves left on the farm and our beloved herd took to these leaves like nothing, gifted me calves, blossomed, and struggled because then I was still strong unlike now,” relates he nevertheless proudly.
Years down the line he is still soldiering on. Earning a good standing certificate from Agribank for promptly earning his loan servicing commitment. Despite the lean years that farming has been experiencing for the past few years running because of drought with many of his fellows finding the going tough. To the extent of pleading with the bank for some grace period in servicing their loans.
The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s Omurari FM’s senior producer, Mberi Hengari, who conducted the interview with Ngaujake from which this article has been transcribed and compiled, was a godsend to Ngaujake. Providing a channel through which to appeal to fellow farmers to meet and ponder the future. If it does not rain this coming season, no farmer would be left with any animal. “Because this year as I see we have four droughts: no rain; heatwave drying up boreholes; lack of grazing because of bush encroachment; and lack of marketing avenues,” fears the veteran farmer.
Hence the need for farmers to come together. To save their farming activities. There’s no any other way around the looming drought than unity of action and one voice when approaching government. “We are paying tax to the government but we don’t get any subsidy from the government,” says Ngaujake, adding it is high time the government intervenes and helps farmers who cannot go back to Agribank to which they are already indebted. Not that this is essentially the position of Agribank. “It is very difficult to add a debt to another debt,” Ngaujake underlines their fears in approaching Agribank to help them avoid a farming calamity.
He says the drought demands loads of money to buy debushing mediums and equipment. “This is how white farmers are partly dealing with the problem because they can afford it. Some also use bulldozers to destroy the bushes but we blacks cannot afford this,” laments Ngaujake. Hence the need for government’s intervention, even if only as guarantor to them for Agribank to help them. “For us to be able to repay such loans in good rains years after. Even without interest because currently the government is buying farms, which it is given for free, but what harm would it be for us to be helped and pay back money without interest?” pleads Ngaujake.
He further takes issue with the fact that the younger generation hailing from farming communities like him do not benefit from farming in anyway like selling products such as livestock ear tags. “These ear tags are made by people who do not own cattle,” observes Ngaujake. Even whites who do not own any cattle are the auctioneers or buying cattle without a single black auctioneer who in difficult times like droughts may feel obliged to plough back into his/her community. Not to mention the need for two to three auctioneers or buyers so that there is competition and thus livestock prices are not depressed and monopolised as is currently the case. As much the ear tags monopoly must be broken. Even livestock feed stores are remote from the farmers as they are not owned by farmers themselves or entrepreneurs from the farming communities but usually by outsiders, most times whites.
Ngaujake bemoans the lack of confidence among blacks, citing the absence of auctions in communal areas, a result of own doings by the black farmers themselves. These days farmers are transporting cattle to urban centres for marketing, thus any commission accrues the auctioneering houses. Even the trucks transporting cattle do not belong to them as owners of cattle in the communal farming communities, thus they do no benefit.
“In this regard we have been enriching the whites who have all along been rich while we ourselves do not develop ourselves – we do not look for trucks, open our own auctioneering houses in the communal areas and set up wholesalers selling vaccines and feeds,” says Ngaujake.