At the start of April, I had the privilege of heading to Namibia to meet up with some farmers in the Hardap Region to see how they farm and explore their region. This wasn’t my first visit to Namibia, but it has been nearly ten years since the last time I visited and I was excited to head to this beautiful country once again.
So other than driving the 1 400km from Cape Town to Windhoek, you can also take a flight to Namibia’s capital. There are five daily flights from Cape Town to Windhoek – Air Namibia’s flights are around 6am, 10am and 6pm, while SAA flies at around 10am and once again at around 3pm. These flights will cost you anything from R2 500 to R4 500 one way. We arrived at the Hosea Kutako International Airport and then took a two-hour drive to the Hardap region.
You also have the option of flying to Walvis Bay at 10am daily with either Air Namibia or SAA and with this option you might even find a flight for under R2 000 one way. South Africans do not need a Visa to enter and because their currency is linked to ours, you can pay with either Rands or Namibian dollars wherever you go. You will also be able to recognise most of their shops and the magazines on their stands as a lot of their products are still from South Africa.
As mentioned, I visited the Hardap region which is one of the 14 Namibian regions, and is situated to the West of Namibia. The capital of the region is Mariental and that is where we spent most of our time. Almost the entirety of Namibia is a water-scarce area and they are currently in their sixth year of drought. There is a certain poeticism in their landscape’s desolate beauty that makes it extraordinary to behold.
The Hardap dam is situated more or less 22 kilometres outside of Mariental and provides the entire region with water, making the area known for its agricultural practices. Several farmers in this region own smallholdings where they produce mainly lucerne for animal feed, as well as a few dairy plots.
Just North East of Mariental is the small little town of Stampriet. This area is known for its famous red dunes. You’ll easily cross a dune and find the most beautiful lucerne, or even corn field, situated within these red dunes which is quite a sight to behold. Namibia has the most extraordinary sunsets and every day we stood in awe of the golden display stretching over the lands and across the dunes.
In Afrikaans, we have a saying that if we meet people that we feel akin to, we call them “Mense, mense” which translates to people’s people and that is exactly how I experienced the people of the Hardap region in Namibia. Apart from the fact that they also speak mother tongue Afrikaans, as I do, their vocab is riddled with regional niceties and they love telling stories as well!
They are extremely hospitable and will insist on inviting you into their beautiful homes to offer you a glass of water to enjoy in the shade. Temperatures in April were a maximum of 32 degrees celsius, and while they described it as mild, this dry heat was quite uncomfortable for us Stellenbosch folk. In the evenings we ate at the local restaurant called Die Kooperasie Kroeg en Kos, where everyone seems to know everyone else and you are treated like family from the moment you walk through the door.
Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world with just 3.13 people per square kilometre. Distances between towns and settlements and cities are much further than anything that we are used to in South Africa. The landscape is mostly desert and as you venture more North West, the red dunes turn to gold. The German influence is still very strong in the country, especially if you go up to cities like Swakopmund.
A big chunk of Namibia’s livelihood comes from tourism and on arrival you’ll therefore immediately see that the entire country is geared towards tourists; from the great roads to the big five star lodges and game reserves, they have really gone all out to cater for the overseas market.
My short visit to them did not include these touristy destinations, but it did include a true look into life as a Namibian farmer. This gave me a new perspective on these families that remain successful despite the extremely dry circumstances (some regions have not seen rain for more than five years). Their attitude also speaks of great perseverance and faith, and meeting them has definitely been a highlight of my year.