Agriculture centre in limbo

14 August 2019 | Agriculture

The new Agricultural Technology Centre (ATC) at Ongwediva, built at a cost of N$73 million, is in limbo as the agriculture ministry is not sure whether to hand it over to the financially struggling Agribusdev.

The first ATC was established at Rundu. It is responsible for the assembly, repair and maintenance of agricultural machinery and equipment belonging to the government.

The centre also conducts scientific research and development for Green Scheme irrigation projects.

Agribusdev, the government's agricultural funding agency, is in charge of the Rundu ATC's extension and engineering services in liaison with the directorate of agricultural production.

After this centre opened in 2015, the agriculture ministry decided to establish a similar centre at Ongwediva, in the Oshana Region.

The ministry's executive director, Percy Misika, told Namibian Sun that the ministry recently completed the Ongwediva ATC, which cost N$72 886 165 for construction and equipping.

“The Ongwediva ATC has been completed and handed over to [the ministry] in June 2019. It will be operationalised in the 2019/20 financial year,” Misika said.

“The centre renders services to the general public and the Green Scheme irrigation projects through the servicing and repairing of trucks, tractors, combine harvesters, earthmoving and small vehicles, as well as irrigation equipment and infrastructure.”

Because of the technology embedded in modern agricultural implements, vocational training centres and institutions of higher learning were urged to up their game in teaching students the appropriate knowledge and skills.

A source told Namibian Sun that the agriculture ministry is not yet sure whether to mandate Agribusdev to provide technical services to the farming community of Namibia.

According to Misika, the centre will not be operated by Agribusdev like the one at Rundu. He said the decision would be made by the Procurement Board.

“The ministry is in the process of engaging an appropriate operator in accordance with the Procurement Act,” he said.

The Rundu ATC has a fully equipped workshop with state-of-the-art equipment and a qualified and experienced workforce.

Besides repairing farm implements, earth-moving equipment and irrigation systems, it hires equipment such as bulldozers, graders, forklifts, portable generators, balers and other heavy-duty machinery.

It also provides electrical services such as repair and maintenance of electrical lines, motors and panels, servicing of transformers and fault finding.

Another function of the ART is providing information technology services such as network cabling, installation of servers, configuration of servers, web design, and provision of computer hardware and software.

Misika added that the Rundu ATC has generated revenue of close to N$7 million since 2016.

No comment could be obtained from the Agribusdev managing director, Petrus Uugwanga, as he did not respond to questions sent to him.

ILENI NANDJATO

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