!gawaxab Turns His Midas Touch to Farming

“My winning model for success in livestock and poultry farming is to manage the key drivers of profit and loss and generate strategies to manage these drivers optimally,” said Johannes !Gawaxab, who besides being the Managing Director of Old Mutual Africa Operations is also one of the country’s successful commercial farmers.

Since independence on March 21 1990 several formerly disaantaged Namibians acquired commercial farms in the country – a privilege only accorded to a selected few in Namibia in the pre-independence era.

Some farmers who acquired their farms through the government’s affirmative action programme made success with their farming activities, while others did not. !Gawaxab is one of the new successful farmers, farming some 25 kilometres east of Mariental.

!Gawaxab bought the farm Toeloop No 210 about five years ago for a whopping N$5.6 million, at N$1 600 per hectare, which was regarded as one of the most expensive farms in the Mariental district at the time. The farm has in the meantime been renamed Eljota No 210.

“I have decided to enter the commercial farming sector irrespective of the deliberately inflated price and virtually with no experience in commercial farming. Today I am the only black commercial farmer in the very fertile area. The formerly aantaged white farmers are still calling the shots in the area, but despite the odds, I managed to established myself as a successful farmer,” said !Gawaxab.

!Gawaxab is presently a part-time farmer as he is managing the multi-national insurance giant, Old Mutual, where he is very successfully taking the company to the next level.

“After retirement I will certainly dedicate more time to my farm. I bought the 3 500-hectare farm with only one objective in mind: to manage this beautiful piece of land on commercial principles and contribute towards food security in the country. That’s why I bought my first 350 Dorper ewes with nine rams five years ago to start production on the farm. I deliberately purchased the livestock from the previous owner and from my neighbour, Paul Klein, to avoid adaptation problems. Three years ago I diversified into cattle farming with Bonsmara cattle from the well-known Hartebeestloop Bonsmara stud. With aic from my neighbours, who tirelessly assist me with Dorper sorting and farming and Dr Andreas Gaugler who helped me with general farm management and vaccination, I run a successful farming operation, obviously with the help of my farm manager and workers despite the heavy workload and responsibilities at Old Mutual,” said !Gawaxab.

Today !Gawaxab is an avid Bonsmara, Dorper and Boerbok farmer. !Gawaxab says since the farm was registered in his name on July 29 2009, he made an investment of more than N$2 million in infrastructure and livestock. “I built a second homestead and also expanded on other infrastructure, such as warehouses. It was a worthwhile investment,” said the father of three with three grandchildren.

He says farming is a business like the one he is running at Old Mutual, but with more exogenous factors and imponderables. “My experience of managing under conditions of extreme uncertainty become pretty helpful and useful,” said !Gawaxab.

He is also engaged in poultry farming while his wife, Paulina, taking care of the huge and modern garden where grapes, oranges and other produce are cultivated and marketed at various outlets in Windhoek. He says the farm has more than 200 olive trees, partly for wind management and also for marketing purposes.

“I am particularly proud to own a farm in the Mariental district where I was born. My roots are here in the Hardap Region. My ancestors are buried in the area and I am happy to contribute to food production and sufficiency in the Hardap Region in particular and the country in general. Needless to say, I decided not to make use of an affirmative action loan, but opted to buy my farm through a commercial bank in order to avoid crowding at the Agricultural Bank of Namibia thereby easing pressure on Agribank,” he said.

!Gawaxab said he practises rotational grazing moving animals from camp to camp so that the veld is not over-grazed. “I have set up specific cycles so that we have lambing time for the Dorper sheep every eight months, thus three times in 24 months. We also have grouped the ewes into two groups so as to have a lambing season every four months. Cattle farming is totally computerized and I am learning fast.”

He says he understands farming on the stock market pretty well, but animal farming and cattle ranging mean hard work, good luck and lots of prayer. There are many risks involved, ranging from volatile prices and unstable weather to animal diseases and many factors related to productivity. Therefore, he says, it is imperative to constantly mitigate these risks.

Source : New Era