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“When you find water on your farm and you don’t make the most of it, it would be better to give the farm to someone who can make more of it,” says Martin Ritter of the farm Woltemade at Imkerhof, about 200 km north of Windhoek.
The present Ritters are the third generation on the farm and are well-known cattle and game farmers in the region. They also utilise the farm for commercial game hunting and have their own meat processing plant.
The purchase of a neighbouring farm with subterranean water was a turning point and they decided to extend their activities to include crop production. Martin and his brother York, have already started establishing several hectares of olive trees. The next innovation will be the production of grain and fodder under centre pivot irrigation.
The brothers first made sure that they had a strong and stable water source. The government was also approached to assist with the drilling and measuring of test holes and everybody agreed – the water was a stable source and viable for irrigation.
Martin says: “We in the Hochfeld catchment area believe that there is something like a wide subterranean river because we drilled 35 holes, and in all instances found water at 30 metres, pushing up naturally to 15 metres below ground level. The best borehole delivers 100 cubic metres per hour and the weakest 20 m3/h.”
The Ritters tackled their major development with the assistance of American partners – visitors who had been on the farm for hunting safaris and developed a love and appreciation for the unique Namibian environment.
Martin says they first undertook extensive research to find markets for their products. They plan to initially participate in the cash crop grain market, and at a later stage also in fodder production to be sold in the vicinity. The various feedlots in the area have approximately 25 000 head of cattle that require a continuous fodder supply.
Selecting a centre pivot system
“My brother and I went to the trouble of travelling all the way to the NAMPO show at Bothaville to interview all the centre pivot suppliers.
There are many excellent centre pivot machines on the market, but we decided on Reinke because of their excellent advice, quality of service and competitive prices,” says Martin.
“We could also see that the pivots are manufactured from materials of excellent quality, and that the moving parts will not easily show signs of wear and tear. Furthermore, we were convinced by personal attention and service.
“These are the first Reinke centre pivot machines to be taken into service in Namibia.”
The Ritter brothers decided on four 4-tower centre pivots, each irrigating 20 hectares. He says the size of the centre pivots were decided on based on the recommendations from Reinke; also after having discussed their intentions with neighbours already active with irrigation.
They do not plan to install bigger machines as they are adamant that the water source should remain viable. They also plan to make use of solar power wherever it is practical.
They decided to initially make use of a basic control panel to manage the system by hand, but Reinke offers the advantage of upgrading it at any time to full electronic remote control depending on their progress.
Preparing the land for a decent seedbed
Martin says the decision to embark on crop production was not taken without serious consideration as deforestation was necessary to prepare the lands and ensure that they could establish a proper seedbed. A contractor has been working for months to reach this point.
270 hectares have been fenced with sturdy game-proof fencing, with chicken-wire at the bottom. “We expect that our green crops will be the target of many smaller animals in this dry environment,” says Martin.
“Our neighbours grow potatoes and onions, but we expect our maize will receive mouth-watering attention.”
Patrick Ellis from Reinke visited the farm to design the centre pivot system and survey the land. Reinke also sent technicians to assist with the installation of the pivots. Martin says his brother, York, utilised the opportunity to learn as much as possible and he reckons he is well-prepared for installing machines in the future. The four centre pivots are there to be seen, ready for action.
When ProAgri visited the farm early in October, the water supply was in place, two of the lands were prepared and ready to be cultivated – only the electricity had to be connected before pushing the on-button.
Planting has been scheduled for the beginning of December!
Farming for the future
Rolf Ritter, Martin’s father, says he supports the project of his sons wholeheartedly. “When their project is compared with others in Zambia and South Africa, it may not be so extensive, but it is one hell of a step forward for our farming enterprise!”
If you have a viable water source and want to farm progressively in any country in Southern Africa, contact Patrick Ellis of Reinke on +27-83-326-9058, or send an e-mail message to email@example.com. Also visit www.reinke.com on the internet for more information, or go to www.proagri.co.za/reinke.