Dying orchards disturb SPYL

The objective of the tree-planting projects was to plant fruit trees on a trial basis to assess their viability in open grasslands in the Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto regions.

11 January 2019 | Agriculture

Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo has expressed his disappointment over the agriculture ministry terminating the contracts of about 200 workers at 56 state orchards in the north.

Nekongo said after reading a Namibian Sun article about the dying orchards, he contacted agriculture permanent secretary Percy Misika, who told him the workers' contracts ended in 2017 and that the ministry had been extending them.

Towards the end of last year the ministry dismissed the workers, which resulted in the trees being neglected and stripped of their fruit by locals.

The tree-planting projects were launched in 2003 and had created hundreds of jobs.

The objective was to plant fruit trees on a trial basis to assess their viability in open grasslands in the Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto regions.

Nekongo said the SPYL is organising an engagement meeting with the agriculture ministry to make sure that the orchards are revived and that taxpayers' money is not wasted.

“In my view I think the directorate failed, because they have been just extending the workers' contracts without making any arrangements as to what will happen after terminating their contracts.

“If the ministry knew that they could not afford to run these projects, at least it was supposed to groom the workers or community members so that they can take over after their contracts ended. What happened is very disappointing,” Nekongo said.

He strongly believes that the orchard workers or community members can utilise the projects in their areas to generate their own income.

He said that the idea of creating these orchards was a good one, but the community was supposed to create them. Nekongo added that according to the information at his disposal there has been no financial accountability in terms of the income generated from selling the fruit.

“I am told that the affected workers are 164 and this is a lot of people. What we will do, we will engage the ministry and communities where these projects are with hopes that there are a few individuals in these communities who will be willing to take over these projects while the ministry is grooming and empowering them.

“Workers who were taking care of these projects can assist communities to take over the project. I know that we are running out of time as I have been told that some of the trees are already drying up; we would like to fast-track this process as soon as possible,” Nekongo said.

Last year Misika told Namibian Sun that the tree-planting was progressing well, even though the trees are reliant on regular watering and good rainfall.

According to Misika in 2014/15, 13 tonnes of mangoes, four tonnes of guavas, 1.5 tonnes of lemons and 0.24 tonnes of oranges were produced, which generated N$89 423.

During 2015/16, 10 tonnes of mangoes, 0.72 tonnes of guavas, three tonnes of lemons and 0.6 tonnes of oranges were produced and N$65 993 was generated.

In 2016/17 they harvested 17.3 tonnes of mangoes, two tonnes of guavas, 5.2 tonnes of lemons and 0.73 tonnes of oranges, generating N$120 405.

Misika said at the time that the ministry would develop management plans for the state orchards and planned to enter into partnerships with other institutions such as the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), for the selling and processing of the fruit.

He added that the ministry was also considering entering into public-private partnerships to manage the orchards.

Lemon, mango and guava trees are suitable for the area but frost and a lack of water are limiting factors. Mangoes seem to have the best local market in northern Namibia.



ILENI NANDJATO

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