Adapting to climate change creates entrepreneurs and resilient communities

Drip Irrigation Project

Above: Mercy Shetuuka and her Brother Shetuuka Shetuuka who managed to pay for her studies with income he generated from the small crop farm.


In a country where the largest population of young people struggle to find work or a stable source of income, Shetuuka Shetuuka has managed to turn a crop farming project into a flourishing small business. Arriving at the farm, I found Shetuuka loading a truck plus a trailer with crates of tomatoes to be delivered to some clients at the market in Oshikango some 100 kilometers away.


Shetuuka, 28 years old, completed secondary school in Omusati region and thereafter did some odd jobs to maintain himself, help out his mother and some of his eight siblings. Although he had a passion for agriculture as a subject in school, his performance in grade 12 did not reach the average points required to be admitted into university.


In 2009 Shetuuka became part of the Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) project. The project introduced the use of drip irrigation techniques in a 300 hectare area in the vicinity of Olushandja dam, approximately 43kms north-west of Outapi. Drip irrigation is the slow and even application of low pressure water to soil and plants using plastic tubes positioned directly at the plant’s root zone.


The project, (funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF)), was supported by the United Nations Development Programme and implemented by the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF). Drip irrigation techniques were piloted in the densely populated Omusati region of northern Namibia. Omusati region is home to some 228,000 people, or 12.5 per cent of the Namibian population. The project aimed to enhance the adaptive capacities of subsistence farmers and natural resource managers to climate change in agricultural and pastoral systems.


The Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority made land available for drip irrigation and the construction of a cold storage facility aimed at reducing post-harvest losses of perishable fruits and vegetables. The Olushandja Horticultural Producers Association (OHPA) was identified as the main community-level implementation partner. The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) supported the OHPA by providing information on marketing and for capacity building and by nominating OHPA members to the NAB. The CCA Project directly engaged local farmers through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), as the national implementing partner.


Shetuuka initially received four 500m coils of drip irrigation lines, a water pumping machine, seeds for onions, tomatoes, carrots as well as training on farming under harsh environmental conditions. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry provided additional support to Shefuuka through a commercial horticulture seminar as well as training on business proposal and marketing strategies and an information exchange on planting and caring for crops. 


On the piece of land made available by the Uukolonkadhi Traditional Authority, he started his crop farming project with the seeds he received from CCA project.


When Shefuuka started with the project in 2009, his only means of transportation was a bicycle, but as the business grew and more orders from clients came through, this became a huge challenge because he was not able to deliver enough goods on time.


To date, he has tripled his farming materials to include three water pumping machines and a pick-up truck with a large trailer which he later bought with the money from the business.


“These vegetables have become my only source of income, I use the money to buy more materials for the farm, to pay my workers and to support my mother,” says Shetuuka Shetuuka. Three years after the CPP ended, Shetuuka’s crop farming business is completely self-reliant.


On an area of approximately 3 hectares, he produces sweet potatoes, onions, butternuts, cabbages, watermelons, tomatoes and green peppers. On average the small farm makes a total profit of about 70, 000 Namibian dollars per month, and during a good harvest he makes as much as 100 000 Namibian dollars (per month).


A properly managed drip irrigation system loses very little water to run-off and evaporation, and the leaching of nutrients is reduced. Drip irrigation further reduces water contact with crop leaves, stems and fruit, which is often a cause of diseases and pests.


In 2012, Shetuuka registered his crop farming project as a small business called Nanganda Trading close corporation. Today the young man is a proud business owner, contributing to the reduction of unemployment in his community as he now employs 5 permanent workers who earn a monthly income of between 600 – 1500 Namibian dollars including his younger sister, Mercy Shetuuka.


Mercy does the secretarial work of his brother’s business while the rest help out with ploughing the land, planting, harvesting and transportation of goods to clients. “With the money I make from the business I paid for my sister to study and she just completed her diploma in Office Administration”, said Shetuuka. Mercy, 23 years old, says she had always enjoyed helping her big brother out on the farm during her secondary school years. “I would always come here during school holidays,” she says.


Furthermore, Shetuuka has about 15 casual workers, who are all street vendors, they help out on the farm and receive free vegetables to sell at their stands in Outapi, a nearby small town.


Shetuuka’s small farm is a portion of a 600 hectare government-run farm at Etunda used by both small-scale and commercial farmers. Although the productivity of these farmers is high, it is difficult for them to access the formal market. Lack of transport, inadequate storage facilities, and the virtual absence of supply contracts with major or formal outlets, are usually the main constraints to market access.


The Nanganda Trading currently has a variety of clients including the Government, some private businesses and individuals. Shetuuka has managed to secure a 6 month contract with the Ministry of Safety and Security to which he sells butternuts and sweet potatoes for consumption of inmates at the Ondangwa prison.


Shetuuka has just won the small-scale producers category in the national horticulture competition for which he will receive a trophy, and a voucher worth about 20, 000 Namibian dollars to utilized for the purchasing of farming equipment. The National Horticulture Day is an annual event organized by the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB) that recognizes the achievements and milestones in the production and trade of locally produced fresh produce. Shetuuka says he’s very excited and is looking forward to the award ceremony, which will be held on the National Horticulture Day celebration in November 2015.


The importance of innovative approaches to local development challenges was a theme echoed at the launch of the SCORE, a project aimed at scaling up resilience to climate variability and climate change in northern Namibia, with a special focus on women. In a closing statement at the launch, the Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP-Namibia said “If ever there was an issue that requires unity of purpose, it is climate change. Climate change is an inevitable and urgent global challenge with long-term implications for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. We cannot tackle poverty, inequality, and environmental issues in separate silos, we can’t succeed. We have to have holistic approaches for lasting solutions”.