“We are doing our small part in making our desert bloom"

With three hectares under plastic and net Farm Shalom in the Swakop River Valley yields 40 tonnes of fresh produce every month in Namibia's unforgiving desert environment. From cold, wet and misty conditions to dusty, hot east winds that can drive the mercury up to almost 50 degrees Celsius, extremes are common. There is hardly any rain, the soil is dusty and salty, and the groundwater available is too brackish for agricultural activities.

“The weather and environment are our biggest challenges. It can become a real problem for our plants' growth. This is why we need appropriate infrastructure and technology, as well as continuous research,” says Farm Shalom's farm manager, Ruben Shikulo. “But we believe if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere,” he says.

Farm Shalom produced fresh olives, olive oil, and fresh produce for neighbors, and some for the local market at Swakopmund. It also served as a venue for a weekly farmers' market. “I did some general work, cleaning the area, preparing the land and watering, pruning and picking the vegetables,” Ruben says. “I was then taught to press olives for oil, develop nurseries and prepare fertilizer.”

After some time, Shikulo had sufficient skills to help expand Farm Shalom, AvaGro's flagship project in Namibia, which has grown to one of the largest hydroponics operations in the country. The farm now consists of 34 plastic greenhouse tunnels and two hectares of shade net for a variety of vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, chilies, cucumbers, asparagus, beetroot, and spinach, as well as flowers.

AvaGro's chief executive officer, Leonie Hartmann, says the company is already working with other agricultural projects in Namibia for the development of the industry, as they share the same vision of turning Namibia into an independent producer of fresh products. “We are doing our small part in making our desert bloom,” she says.

Read the complete article at www.namibian.com.na.

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