In 2019, Cherry Irrigation opened an operations base in Windhoek, headed up by Namibian-born Willem Mostert. While our company has been involved in assisting local growers and agriculturalists for many years, up until that point we had worked on a project-to project-basis, servicing clients from our head office in Grabouw, South Africa.
But more and more our team has come to realise that what African farmers and horticulturalists really need is present and active on-the-ground support from industry players who are driven by a service excellence mindset. There is a huge demand across the continent for consultants and service providers who are committed, willing and able to “get their hands into the dirt” so to speak. Farmers and producers want to partner with companies that are physically present and available to their clients.
Willem proved the perfect fit in enabling us to set up our Namibian base and now managing it. With local knowledge and insights, he knows the terrain and is passionate about his country and its people. He is also well-qualified, holding both a higher certificate and a national diploma in agriculture from Grootfontein Agricultural College, as well as a BTech degree in agricultural management from the Central University of Technology in South Africa, and having worked extensively in the sector.
During consultation processes with local farmers over the past few months, Willem has noticed that farmers really appreciate having good irrigation expertise available in the country: “Knowing that Cherry Irrigation offers innovative smart irrigation systems, best-in-class equipment, the latest technology and, perhaps most importantly, focuses on continued support has really encouraged local growers to partner with us,” he says.
Through a combination of big picture thinking, strategic planning and building strong and lasting client relationships, he believes Cherry Irrigation can make a real difference in the agricultural sector in the country of his birth.
Adds director Charles Cherry: “Given the prevailing drought conditions in Namibia, we are committed to finding innovative irrigation solutions based on the most appropriate technologies. We want to encourage farmers to obtain a balance between producing food for local consumption and producing high value crops for the export market. We also like to work with our Namibian growers to help advise them on careful and appropriate crop selection. We’re bringing our knowledge and experience to the table to add value.”
The Cherry Irrigation team believes that local resources can be developed in an optimal manner to simultaneously meet food security goals and decrease poverty. “Making this happen in a strategic, sustainable and affordable manner for our clients that takes both long-term market and climatic conditions into account is our mandate,” Charles says. “We are very aware that the systems we design will have to be suitable for the local conditions, especially in terms of taking into consideration higher water demands of plants, for which careful irrigation scheduling plans will be required, as well as water quality, in terms of salinity, especially of groundwater sources in the ultra-dry areas.”
Isobel van der Stoep, senior agricultural engineer at Cherry Irrigation, emphasises that Cherry Irrigation sees its role as encompassing many different areas within Namibia’s agricultural sector. “The sector ranges from intensive irrigation production for staple and high-value crops for the export market to extensive stock farms for animal production, as well as small-scale farmers producing for own consumption and local sales. Game farming and tourism, where water is needed for human and animal consumption, will also be supported by our team. There’s a lot of exciting work to be done and we are equipped and ready for it.”
She continues: “Supporting the irrigation sector in its quest to produce more food for local consumption, such as vegetables, is definitely a priority for our team. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) currently has two exciting initiatives underway in the country – the Green Scheme and the National Horticulture Development Initiative (NHDI), both aimed at increasing local agricultural production. There is a big national drive to produce more locally (fruit, vegetables, livestock fodder, and other horticultural products) and thereby reduce the need to import.”
“It’s very encouraging for us as a company that the Namibian government is both innovative and supportive in this regard, which also makes our job easier,” Isobel says. We want to aid these initiatives and drives as best we can. We aim to properly support farmers in their quest to produce food and improve food security in the country. We’re also happy to match our thinking and approach to the goals set by the different government programmes in order to reduce food imports and develop more local resources. We know this will help stimulate economic growth in a country with significant potential.”
“Namibia is an exciting place to be working,” says Willem. “Local irrigation farmers are in general educated and well-informed. Many are already making good use of appropriate technologies. This is essential in a country with limited water resources and challenging and erratic climatic conditions. Cherry Irrigation’s focus is to support producers with fresh information and solutions in order to optimise production under these difficult conditions. We want to build strong partnerships with like-minded clients.”