Budget cuts to affect harvest at Etunda

About 700 hectares of land at the Etunda irrigation project will for the fifth year be underutilised, further lowering production following far-reaching budget cuts effected by government since last year.

Apart from the unoccupied land, water infrastructure that was installed five years ago remains idle, making it prone to thieves.

The unutilised area at the project was previously allocated to communal farmers for crop farming and to graze their livestock.

Last year, the 700 hectares were de-bushed in preparation of planting this year, however, the process had to be halted because government could not finance the project with the budgetary requirement of N$32 million needed to plant the irrigation project.

"We wanted to plant the whole existing project 100 percent so that we also test the infrastructure in place because they have never been used, however, our expectations were cut short after the budget cuts," explained farm manager Albertus Viljoen.

Viljoen made the remarks during a visit to the farm by the governor of Omusati Region Erginus Endjala and potential Israeli investors who are interested in housing and agriculture business on Tuesday.

Etunda has capacity for 9000 tons of grain yearly if it operates at full capacity, however it currently only produces 3000 tons.

"Last year we managed to produce more than 3000 tons and that was by far the biggest yield harvested in years. But we have the capacity to feed this region if funds are available," said Viljoen.

Apart from underfunding, the project this year got another blow when it was infested by the African bollworm earlier this year, affecting over 100 hectares and further diminishing the harvest.

He said the bollworms have caused extensive damage, but conceded he was unable to calculate the monetary loss at the moment. He however said this year's production is expected to be less due to the factors mentioned. Viljoen said the small-scale farmers at Etunda are also not producing as much as expected due to unpaid debts. He said some small-scale farmers owe Agribank while others owe the project for services rendered on their fence.

"Some of the small scale farmers also have unutilised land because they can no longer afford the production cost," said Viljoen.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia