Settling in Vasdraai- the Resettlement Farm


Vasdraai community pre-primary school teacher, Clementine Tjitura with leaners and chairs donated by UNDP. Photo - UNDP Namibia

Many Namibians in rural areas work on commercial farms, privately owned, to earn a living and support their families. For some, this suddenly changed in 1997 when 73 families, who were previously employed as farm workers and squatters on the Seeis farm near Windhoek, were expelled and resettled on the Vasdraai farm. The Vasdraai resettlement farm has a total land of 4 315 hectares and was designated suitable for four families, with roughly 1000 hectares intended for each family. Now however, within 20 hectares there are five farmer families with their livestock. So this large number of families and livestock on the land has surpassed the carrying capacity of the land, thus resulted in hardship and land degradation primarily due to overgrazing and limited opportunities to diversify farm activities to secure livelihoods.

The Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management (CPP-ISLM) project intervention strategies at Varsdraai Resettlement Farm have been noted as good foundational practices because the resettled community will be able to sustain itself in the future. The Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management project introduced rangeland management, a benchmark concept, water management and the sustainable harvesting of natural resources and processing them into livestock fodders (Camelthons, seedcakes, moringa and marama beans).The concept of food security was also introduced whereby the project invested in the initial development of community-managed vegetable gardens and upgrading of pre-primary school infrastructure.

Highlights

  • Vasdraai has a total land of 4 315 hectares and was designated suitable for four families. Now however, within 20 hectares there are five farmer families with their livestock.
  • The Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management project introduced rangeland management, a benchmark concept, water management and the sustainable harvesting of natural resources.
  • As a the Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management project implementation result, a Ben Hur Rural Development Centre employee benefited from the Young Professional Research Associates and ultimately completed his PhD.

“We use vegetables from the garden to eat at home and we sell some on the side of the road to get money for paying my children’s school fees,” says 42 years old Eliaser April, who was resettled on Vasdraai in 2010 with his wife and four children. Eliaser takes care of the community garden which produces various vegetables including cabbages, carrots, beetroots, beans and maize.

The pre-primary school at Vasdraai caters for seventeen learners and provides basic education such as writing and counting. The United Nations Development Programme previously donated chairs to the community kindergarten. However the school teacher Clementine Tjitura stressed that the children still need books and toys to enhance their learning.

Before the interventions through the Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management project, there were no means of income generation and the families struggled to sustain their livestock and livelihoods. “We try working on the dry land here but because of the lack of rain it has been very difficult for us. We really need water tanks,” says Anton Auseb, Chief of Vasdraai resettlement farm.

In 2010 a two years the Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management  project aimed at capacity building for local level natural resource users and managers, focused on a number of aspects such as the empowerment of communities to asses land use management options; the enabling of such communities to call upon extension services (crop, livestock, environment, fishery, land, water)  and other services providers (NGOs, UN, private sector) for support according to their particular land management needs; and the equipping of communities with technological tools and skills to manage the resources on their farms effectively. 

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) with the United Nations Development Programme and Namibia’s Ministry of Regional Local Government, Housing and Rural Development seek to integrate the Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management project interventions at the Vasdraai Resettlement Farm, into the outreach activities of the Ben Hur Rural Development Centre (RDC) for sustenance of possible good on- farm land management practices and the rollout of the initiative for the benefit of surrounding communities. Thus, activities were implemented in partnership with the Ben Hur Rural Development Centre. The Rural Development Centres’ main objective is to promote the development of appropriate technologies that enhance the agricultural production as well as other economic diversification activities in rural areas within the Omaheke region.

The Ministry of Regional Local Government Housing and Rural Development equips the Centre with the necessary facilities (site and building, a Management Company, water, electricity) to enable it to play its crucial role of providing goods and services to rural communities as outlined in the National Rural Development Policy of March 2012. Therefore, sustainable technical and rural development support to the Vasdraai community is assured.

As a the Country Pilot Partnership-Integrated Sustainable Land Management  project implementation result, a Ben Hur Rural Development Centre employee benefited from the Young Professional Research Associates and ultimately completed his PhD (now Dr Gabriel Hangara) on sustainable agriculture. This has further ensured that the community members can share and use the PhD thesis results with various partners instead of conducting new studies and assessment for the farm. 

Visiting the Vasdraai community during her visit to Namibia, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary, Ms. Monique Barbut suggested that “community members think of other income generating activities, such as solar energy, for pumping water and cooking purposes,  lighting, watershed or planting trees (e.g. moringa) for medicinal herbs that they could sell.  Looking at the state of the land here and considering the fact that the country is facing one of the worst droughts, there is no other option than to diversify, as the land status is not ideal for focussing on livestock farming only,” she said. The UNCCD Executive Secretary also shared that some of the approaches used in other countries may be suitable here, citing the Senegal Eco-village concept, that was implemented by UNDP and co-funded by the Global Environment Facility. “The basis of any kind of development is ‘renewable’ energy, that is affordable, sustainable and productive for other alternative uses like cell phone charging and enhancing educational opportunities and reliving women from other labour intensive practices like collecting wood”, said Ms Barbut.

In addition, the Chief Executive Officer of the Environmental Investment Fund, Mr. Benedict Libanda, pledged support for the Vasdraai community with solar panels and water tanks following their concerns of water shortage due to the dryness of all the boreholes in the area.