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Another blueberry boost for Kavango-East in Namibia

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Divundu on the banks of the Kavango in Namibia, where a large blueberry project is planned. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Another blueberry boost for Kavango-East in Namibia

The fertile banks of the Kavango River in northern Namibia could become an agricultural hub as more companies invest in the region’s farming potential.

By Leon Louw owner of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine

The production of blueberries is proving to be a boost for the Kavango East Region in Namibia between the provincial capital of Rundu and the town of Divundu.

The Kavango River has been a lifeline in this area for eons and forms the border between Namibia and Angola.

The Kavango, one of Africa’s most iconic rivers, becomes the Okavango River once it flows into Botswana from Namibia close to Divundu.

In Angola, where the Kavango is born, it is called the Cubango River. Before it disappears into the sand of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the river forms the spectacular Okavango Delta, a world heritage site.

During the recent WhyAfrica Road Trip through Namibia, Zambia, Angola, Malawi, Botswana, and South Africa, we looked at some of the most significant agricultural developments on the banks of the Kavango.

There are a several projects in the pipeline in an area historically plagued by underdevelopment and unemployment, despite its fertile soil and proximity to the river. Traditional subsidence farming of maize and millet (Mahango) and fishing are making way for larger agricultural developments.

Blueberry boost (Another blueberry boost for Kavango-East in Namibia)

Namibia Berries, a subsidiary of the South African venture capital company Loxworth Capital, recently announced that it will invest 1.5 billion Namibian dollars (USD80.2-million) over the next seven years into the production of blueberries. This investment will include the development of a 250-hectare farm based in Divundu that will mainly focus on exports.

According to Namibia Berries, the farm will employ more than 200 people and create thousands of jobs during the harvest seasons. Puliberries and Agricola, two large Spanish agri-food companies, are the major investors.

Although the development promises to be a boost for the region, there are communities who oppose large development. Some residents of Ndongo Village, which is within the Village Council, initially opposed the development of the blueberry farm in Divundu.

However, local Mukwe Constituency Councillor Damian Maghambayi is confident that the farm will benefit communities and has called on the residents of Divundu to support the planned blueberry farm.

Maghambayi says several meetings were held with the Hambukushu Traditional Authority and villagers and most of them supported the project.

The Mashare project (Another blueberry boost for Kavango-East in Namibia)

The blueberry farm in Divundu will not be the first in the Kavango East Region. Local company Mashare Berries Farming started a similar project between Mashare and Mupapama villages, about 40km from Rundu, two years ago.

At the time Willem Mostert, manager of Cherry Irrigation, the company in charge of irrigation and fertigation management system for the project, said the 20-ha project was considered a forerunner for other high-value crops that could be produced under irrigation in the semi-arid country.

The Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) invested 90-million Namibian Dollars into the blueberries production project, while another 27.5-million Namibian Dollars were invested in the Mashare irrigation project, which produces a variety of crops, including maize, sorghum, wheat and potatoes, among others.

Blueberries have a high international demand and is in high demand from especially European markets. The fruit produced at Mashare is being sold and marketed under the trading name Namib Blue.

Currently, three varieties imported from the US-based grower Fall Creek have been planted on the property: AtlasBlue, JupiterBlue and BiancaBlue. The plantings were established in November 2019, with 16 ha under net, 2ha in tunnels and 2ha in an open field.

According to the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), there is a strong production growth of blueberries in recent years in Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, and most recently in Namibia.

These countries have the advantage of harvesting fruit early and entering the European markets before South Africa’s ability to supply and when market prices are generally higher. It is expected that this growth will continue in conjunction with expansion in other African countries in the next few years.

In 2020, the global supply of blueberries stood at 1.4 million tons; from around 200,000 hectares planted across the world. With this, the International Blueberry Organisation (IBO) projects that world production will increase by 12.6% by 2024.

Another blueberry boost for Kavango-East in Namibia

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Another blueberry boost for Kavango-East in Namibia

 

 

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