WINDHOEK, (The Southern African Times) – Namibians are embracing agricultural entrepreneurship to invigorate the sector once dubbed as peripheral and unfashionable.
At his family home at a far-flung village in the Omusati region in the northern part of Namibia, young farmer Otto Kapuka inspected his garden to ensure that the vegetation was ferrying well.
Kapuka, a university graduate, turned to agriculture when he could no longer secure permanent employment following an economic downturn.
“When I graduated, I couldn’t find a job and went into the field of training, life coaching, mentorship, and motivational speaking. When things crumbled due to the economic downturn, I recently decided to go back to my roots and do something I grew up loving- farming,” Kapuka said on Sunday.
Relying on agriculture lessons learned in high school, assistance from agricultural experts, and online videos, he diverted to agriculture with a leap of faith and hope.
Today, his plot’s sight is picturesque of vegetables and other crops including maize, watermelons, sweet potatoes, butternuts and spinach.
His focus and niche are on growing organic fresh produce. “We hope to introduce new and fast ways of farming and growing organic products, and promote health and nutrition,” he said.
To counter Namibia’s dry-arid climate, he employs unconventional farming methods to achieve irrigation and ways to fertilize the land.
“Since we are in our inception stage, we are using the simplest drip irrigation system,” he added.
According to Kapuka, the decision has since led to fruition, managing to sell vegetables, maize and legumes to clients across the country, and received positive feedback from customers.
He is not the only one. More Namibian youth have turned to agriculture as a viable vocation and income-generating venture.
At Grootfontein in central Namibia, young farmer Kumbee Kaseraera runs a broiler chicken project.
Kaseraera was driven into agricultural entrepreneurship by the quest for food sufficiency, employment creation and sustainability.
“I did not want to depend on the government for food or employment solely; hence I ventured into poultry farming,” she said.
Since inception, she, on average, collects more than 200 eggs from more than 300 chickens.
Meanwhile, she has established a supply value chain for the local commercial stores such as hotels and sales agents.
“I hope to increase the capacity and production to 600 chickens,” she added.
Innately, Kapuka has a similar vision for his agricultural venture to farm vegetables and animals.
Apart from growing vegetables and crops, his long term vision is to farm livestock and other animals, including chicken, pigs and goats.
“It is a strategic and innovative integrated approach that ensures we grow organic products, and that nothing goes to waste. Residue from plants will feed the animals while the manure fertilises the land,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kapuka has also branched out to help fellow youth set up their gardens for a ripple effect.
“At this stage, together with fellow youth, we have set up a few gardens for other people. The aim is to help people who want to establish their gardens. We set up gardens for them and support them throughout the process,” he said.
He also wishes to establish a kindergarten that will have a feeding program sourcing produce from the farm.
“But mainly to explore processing some of our vegetables and start packaging them for the commercial market,” he added.
Meanwhile, both young farmers are motivated by their commitment to employ other youth in the community.
The agricultural sector created about 167,242 jobs during 2018, with many total jobs in rural areas, with a considerable number of those being in rural parts of Namibia, according to results of the Labour Survey Records by the Namibia Statistics Agency
In the interim, Farayi Zimudzi, Food and Agricultural Organisation representative in Namibia, emphasised the empowerment of youth to manage climate change. These include irrigation systems and designing digital solutions that can help actors in food systems address challenges and contribute to social and economic development.
“Empowering youth by providing them with multiple skill proficiencies will enable them to channel their energy to achieve optimal results across the various sectors that directly and indirectly contribute to food security,” she said.