The cattle were replaced by tomato and spinach plants aligned with chalk. Installed in northern Namibia, Kornelius Hamasab has transformed its 2,400 m2 of sandy soil inherited from a descendant of a German settler.
Black Namibian 69 years old, he is an exception.
In its semi-desert country in southern Africa, whites, descendants of South Africans and German settlers, continue to own the majority of arable land (70%) while they make up only 6% of the population.
Nearly thirty years after independence, the black majority must be content with 16% of agricultural land, a distribution that feeds resentment and frustration.
« It seems unfair to me, » said Kornelius Hamasab, his head covered in a cap as beige as his land. « The government should do something, » he adds as members of his family pick up spinach for sale in Windhoek, the capital 150 km further south.
Kornelius Hamasab is one of more than 20 families who obtained a free piece of land near Okahandja when their boss, a livestock farmer, decided to reduce his activities and lay off his 170 employees.
Instead of collecting severance pay, Kornelius Hamasab opted for land offered to him by his employer, with the approval of the authorities.
The unallocated area has been assigned to the government, a priority in the event of dismantling or sale of farms.
At independence in 1990, Namibia opted for voluntary agrarian reform. Farmers wishing to sell their farms must first offer their land to the state, which redécoupe in small parcels then allocated to « formerly disadvantaged Namibians », the black majority.
But this strategy failed to achieve « the expected results, » said the head of state Hage Geingob last year by relaunching a major debate on land reform.
Farms for sale
« The status quo can not continue, » he added, announcing constitutional amendments to expropriate white farmers in exchange for « fair compensation. »
These amendments are still under discussion but the subject has largely fueled the November presidential campaign, after which Mr Geingob was re-elected for five years.
The question agitates Namibia like many of its neighbors in southern Africa, where historically cultivable land was controlled by the white minority of settlers.
In Zimbabwe, from the early 2000s, thousands of white farmers were expropriated militarily as part of a controversial land reform. It resulted in a collapse of agricultural production largely due to the sanctions of the Western powers United Kingdom and the United States in mind.
In South Africa, the government has made land reform a priority by deciding for expropriations without compensation for, according to its president Cyril Ramaphosa, « to repair the injustices of apartheid ».
At the head of a farm of several tens of hectares near Windhoek, Helmut Halenke doubts that the state, at the financial cost, quickly interested in his property inherited from his German grandfather, arrived in Namibia in 1908.
« There are a lot of farms on the market right now. The problem is that the government has no money and can not buy them, « said the imposing 67-year-old farmer, wearing khaki from head to toe.
Since independence, about 8 million hectares of land have been proposed to the government, which has only bought 3, according to the trade union.
« Wet hens »
« The white community sells its land, » says Bernardus Swartbooi, Deputy Minister of Lands from 2015 to 2017, « it does not keep them as was the case in Zimbabwe. »
Mr. Swartbooi made land his main campaign theme during the presidential election, when he ran for his party, the Landless People Movement, which won 4.9% of the vote.
This Black accuses the power to use the reform to serve « a small elite ». « The poorest do not benefit, » he says. Charges that the government, repeatedly contacted by AFP, refused to answer.
President Geingob, re-elected, pledged to entrust 43% of arable land to blacks by 2020. A gamble dared. Helmut Halenke is worried about it. If the project is « not well done », he warns, it is likely to disrupt agricultural production as in neighboring Zimbabwe.
« You can not take a man under a tree and put him on a farm, » he insists, citing the case of the Ongombo West horticultural plantation, near Windhoek, which once died redistributed to families. poorly trained and without means.
« Ministers have farms and at home there is no real production, » says Halenke. « They think it’s easy, but being a farmer is not good for wet chickens. «
Kornelius Hamasab is in a good position to talk about it. He has received valuable support from his previous employer and from the advice of German agricultural experts. But most Namibians who got land were not so lucky.