A farmer turns to social media to market his produce

AINA Imalwa (29) says being a young vegetable farmer in Namibia is no small feat, especially as local farmers are often excluded from major markets.

This can lead to stored produce rotting, she says.

Imalwa is a farmer from the Etunda Irrigation Project and has taken to social media to market her produce.

“Hello Namibia, I’m ‘Aina the farmer’ based in Etunda in the Omusati region, and I’m here looking for cabbage buyers as the harvest starts on 10th April.

“I have nearly 6,000 heads of cabbage. Please contact me,” she recently posted on Facebook.

Two days later, she sold all 6,000 cabbage, she said.

“It only took two days, when it would normally take weeks, as the products spoil.

“I was surprised, overwhelmed and touched by the response I received from everyone. People called me from the south of the country, from the coast, from the north – in fact, from everywhere.

“People were buying cabbages to resell, and unfortunately some people were too far away, so I couldn’t send cabbages. Many more flocked to the farm to pick up their produce themselves.

“I hadn’t realized that the demand for fresh produce was so high. I am motivated to work harder through this experience,” says Imalwa.

She says she started cultivating with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Government-imposed shutdowns and curfews during this time meant farmers faced a substantial drop in sales.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has really brought many challenges. First, we did not have access to major markets. I produce a lot, but the problem is always finding customers – especially those who can buy products in bulk.

“I just started and I missed exposure. I would rent a vehicle which I used to sell my products in various open markets in the north,” she says.

Imalwa produces cabbages, carrots, butternuts, maize, tomatoes, beets and green peppers.

Born in the village of Engombe in the Omusati region, she says her love for agriculture was instilled in her by watching her grandmother work in the fields.

“I have always followed my grandmother. I would join her and imitate her while she cultivated, until I was old enough to do it properly myself.

“After completing my education, I enrolled at Omashale College of Agriculture in Kavango East Region, where I took a course in horticulture and agronomy.

“After completing my course, I started a unique farming business here at Etunda Irrigation Project in 2020, and the rest is history,” she says.

“Social media is a great platform for anyone to market their business and showcase their products. It really helped me.

“I managed to build a new clientele through the platform, and I really appreciate it.

“I would like to tell young people who want to venture into farming that their dreams are valid and anything can be achieved with the right mindset,” she says.

“REGISTER PLEASE”

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Water Reform, Jonah Musheko, said fresh produce growers should be registered with the Namibian Agricultural Council (NAB) to be able to market their produce. .

“If you don’t sign up, there’s no way they’ll know you. Your products, after registration, would then be referred to the Agribusiness Marketing and Marketing Agency (Amta), which is responsible for the marketing of fresh produce – unless your products are not up to standard” , explains Musheko.

Imalwa says that although she is registered with the Namibian Agricultural Council, there is so much they can do and it is not enough. “I am a registered member of NAB, they sometimes help us find customers for our products both locally and overseas, however, that is not enough. When it comes to Amta, the producers have to contact them and they will offer very low prices for our products and it is us who have to find a way to obtain the products. The whole process is expensive and not beneficial. If they could at least pay us a bit more,” Imalwa said.

The Public Relations Officer at the Namibian Agricultural Council, Auguste Fabian, said the NAB is mandated to promote the agronomic industry and facilitate the production, processing, storage and marketing of controlled agronomic and horticultural products in Namibia through market regulation.

“So far, the development of agronomy and horticulture has grown steadily in terms of local production and marketing versus imports. We don’t know if Imalwa is registered in our database. We will have to check,” Imalwa said.

Amta regional manager Jacob Hamutenya said he couldn’t comment much and referred all questions to NAB. “You will have to speak to the NAB. Producers who use our services are only registered when they bring products to Amta,” Hamutenya said.