Over 50 women from the Kharas region are making a living through an agricultural project of hybrid seed production, an initiative being spearheaded by the Women’s Action for Development (WAD) with the assistance of the Pupkewitz Group.
The agricultural project was born out of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2012 by WAD and TMS, an Israeli Company, which pioneered the initiative in the country under the licence of NUNHEMS, a Netherlands based global seed company.
The women who are part of the project are mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds with insufficient levels of formal education and training.
The initiative is in line with the United Nations call for improving women’s participation in decision-making, ensuring their economic empowerment as well as increasing their access to financial services.
Augastina Nakanyala is one of the people, who are part of the project, which she says has given her better opportunities in life. She received training in leadership and how to start a cooperative.
All the women involved in the project receive a week’s training on how to extract the seeds from the vegetables when they are ready for harvesting.
Nakanyala is a 23-year-old single mother of a three-year-old girl. She had to send her daughter to her mother so she could be free to find work opportunities and earn money to support her family.
“Due to the programme, I am now able to send money to my mother every month for the upkeep of my child,” she says.
“I was not working before and it was very tough especially after becoming a mother. Since I started working, I have not only established a source of income, but I have also acquired some knowledge that will be useful for me even in future,” she says.
Hybrid seed production of this nature is the first of its kind for TMS to implement on the African continent.
The seed company sends parent seeds which the women plant, then pollinate and harvest, before selling the crops back to the company.
The production concentrates on hybrid seeds for tomatoes, melons, watermelons, cucumber and sweet peppers.
Currently, the project covers about four hectares of land which the group is leasing from a local cooperative in the area since they have been unable to secure land of their own for this project.
On one hectare, they can produce between 100 to 150 kgs of seeds which they sell for N$200 per kg.
Currently, their output is about six tonnes per year, but their hope is to increase their yield if they are given more land.
According to the project co-ordinator, Bennet Bhebhe, they applied for land in 2015, but to no avail.
“We are planning to increase production, so the hope is to get 200 hectares where we can also employ more people. On 200 hectares we can provide jobs to over 8000 women,” he says.
According to Bhebhe, the decrease in funding from donor agencies has had a tremendous effect on the activities of the group and they have had to delay expanding the project.
The Pupkewitz Group is currently the funding partner responsible for infrastructural development, capital equipment and management solutions for the project while WAD is responsible for the mobilization and management of the women.
Bhebhe says the infrastructure needed for the project is very expensive because they use drip irrigation.
“We need about N$300,000 per hectare for equipment to set up,” he says.
The women are now busy extracting tomato seeds and processing them for shipment before the end of the month when they will start with other vegetables.
For the future, WAD plans to form a cooperative and give a hectare of land to a group of women and train them so that they can start their own business.
According to Bhebhe, a cooperative in rural areas not only help enhance social unity and economic growth at micro level, but also helps give support to marginalised societies.
The Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry approved certification for the project back in 2014 when the project started while it has its own seed multiplication projects specifically for mahangu, maize and other crops.
The ladies receive a salary of about N$2,500 every month, excluding overtime, while they are also given breakfast and lunch during their workday.