Govt takes over management of evicted farmers’ vineyardsBy: LUQMAN CLOETE
THE government has taken over the management of vineyard plots from which 10 small-scale grape farmers at the Orange River Irrigation Project (ORIP) were evicted on Tuesday.
Government had obtained High Court eviction orders against the farmers after it had terminated the lease agreements they had entered into in 2009, claiming the farmers had violated several conditions of the agreements..
The standoff stems from the farmers’ refusal to sell their produce through Cool Fresh Namibia (CFN), the government-appointed service provider, and their reluctance to enter into a tripartite agreement with Agribank and CFN.
An agronomist in the Ministry of Agriculture, Julia Nambili, yesterday said the ministry’s extension officer based at Aussenkehr was taking care of the evictees’ vineyard plots with the CFN as the service provider.
“It’s is not for CFN to take up the vineyard plots, the Agriculture Ministry is in charge,” Nambili remarked when asked whether CFN had taken over the management of the vineyards.
Saying the evicted farmers will not be compensated for having taken care of the vineyards, Nambili said the government will pocket this season’s produce earnings to recoup what it spent on the service provider.
Nambili said the government had to enlist the services of CFN to rescue the vineyards which were dying of neglect.
Commenting on the evicted farmers’ claims that they had received “peanuts” for their produce, with the lion’s share of the profit going to CFN, Nambili disagreed and remarked: “They were eating up their profit throughout the year by taking a monthly allowance of N$4 000”.
Nambili said the evicted farmers started to accuse CFN of contract breach after it discontinued the payment of the N$4 000 monthly allowance to them at the advice of the government.
“The government did not want them to eat up their profits throughout the year, therefore it advised CFN to discontinue the monthly allowances,” Nambili said.
Nambili could not say how much the annual grape harvest on the plots is worth.
Both the governor of the Karas Region and the Karasburg Constituency councillor have expressed unhappiness with the evictions.