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August 14, 2011

Israeli sets up greenhouse farm in Namibia

by Albertina Nakale

An Israeli farmer, Rovi Savir, four months ago brought greenhouse technology to Namibia through Katima Farm in the Caprivi Region located close to the Zambezi River.

Savir secured a 10-year lease agreement of the farm from Katima Mulilo Town Council four months ago for horticultural production. It will cost him N$112 000 (US$16 000) to construct a structure half a hectare big.

He plans to erect two greenhouses over two hectares for crop production.

So far he grows potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and onions and plans to add lettuce. He plans to sell his produce to northern Namibia, especially in Katima Mulilo.

“Potential is there to succeed. The system can produce 365 days per year. We have not harvested yet but our first harvest will be cabbage at end of this month. Katima lies between four countries, which gives the project a lot of potential.

“All the food at the moment comes from South Africa. We can supply them food. We must stop thinking about a lot of hectares, locals can not afford heavy machinery. Government can assist them to produce crops using greenhouse technology. We want to partner with government and share the risks,” he said.

Savir could, however, not shed light on the amount he needs from the partner, saying it is best to grow the idea first.

The Israeli farmer recently presented his novel idea to the Ministry of Agriculture, with which he intends to forge a farming partnership.

“I came with the knowledge to share with the locals here on how to use greenhouse technology. I use anti-virus plastic covers with small holes to protect crops from the rain and cold weather. Insects cannot enter into the plastic because it covers the ground that also keeps water and fertilisers in the soil clean. The plastic cover will also keep weeds away from the crops,” he explained.

Savir said it is important to invest money in simple and cheap machinery instead of heavy ones.

“This system is modern, easy, smaller and has simpler tools. It saves water and fertiliser. If you have insect problems in the soil, it is best – 100 percent – controlled because it has an anti-virus system,” he said.

Construction of the greenhouses is set to begin in October. He would import all construction materials from South Africa. He said he would also use drip irrigation on 10 hectares.

Savir also plans to instal sprinkler irrigation systems to distribute water as uniformly as possible. He said the soil at the farm is sandy, hence he would need a lot of water and fertiliser for his produce using pivot centres.

Savir said one hectare of tomatoes gives him 300 tonnes in Israel.

“I believe it will give me the same tonnage in Namibia. I wish to produce 100s of tonnes per year of yield. We plan to make a nursery with anti-virus nets for seedlings this month and then store them. The lifespan of varieties is two to three weeks and it doesn’t need refrigeration. If we want to develop agriculture, we need to provide small-scale farmers with greenhouses,” he said.

The farm has four water pumps from the Zambezi River pumping 1 000 cubic metres of water per hour.

The Katima Mulilo Town Council owns the farm, which has 350 hectares of arable land. Savir has a 10-year lease.

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