In a desert country where water is scarce, a farmer cannot afford to waste even a drop. On the farm Hartebeesloop at Stampriet in Namibia, measuring every drop drawn from the aquifer deep below the ground surface is the order of the day.

Access to this strictly controlled resource is one of the reasons Dr Joggie Briedenhann, well known Bonsmara breeder, can maintain the condition of his top-class animals.

The farm has 77 ha under irrigation on the 40 000 ha piece of land. Seven Agrico pivots cover circles ranging from 5 to 15 ha each, drawing water through boreholes from the aquifer. Any expansion means that another borehole has to be drilled, and that is not a cheap undertaking. Nor is it easy.

Boreholes are typically 100 to 110 metres deep. To prevent the sand and saline water from seeping into the piping and spoiling the clear water from the Stampriet artesian well, the borehole needs to be cased and cemented right to the bottom.

Strict quotas are imposed on the quantity of water drawn from each borehole. The litres of water utilised as well as the water level of every borehole, must be reported to the authorities monthly.

Planning and cultivating on this farm entirely revolves around managing this ancient and valuable resource. As far as possible, minimum till and no-till farming methods are followed to preserve moisture in the soil.

Crop Manager Werner Mouton says most of the planting under the Agrico pivots is geared towards providing good feed throughout the year, rotating maize with sorghum and oats. They also plant maize as a cash crop, and when they are blessed with a good rainy season and enough water quota left for wintertime, they can also plant wheat.

Last year the area had good rain in December after a seven-year drought. Many farmers were tempted to plant in dry land, but in January the rain stopped. Without irrigation, no crops would have survived. “Remember, we plant in the red Kalahari sand!”

Agrico in the red Kalahari sand

Planting in the red Kalahari sand is made possible by Agrico, good management by Dr Joggie Briedenhann’s team on the farm Hartebeesloop, and the clear water from the Stampriet artesian aquafer.

“We planted our first winter wheat this past season and we had an excellent 7,3 t/ha B1 grade harvest. The Agrico pivots made it possible. If the wheat is not properly irrigated for even a few days, it can make a tonne of difference,” says Werner.

When Werner and the team at Hartebeesloop did their research on pivots, they had a few non-negotiable requirements. The pivots had to be sturdy, built for conditions in Africa, and easy to manage with low maintenance needs.

“We are far away from everything. If something breaks, parts must be available and we must be able to handle all maintenance ourselves,” explains Werner.

They formed a relationship with Agrico Upington in South Africa, led by Rudi Horn, and have not looked back since. Werner says the quality of Agrico’s equipment is matched by their level of service and support.

Before erecting the pivots, Agrico visited the farm and created a strategy to make the most of the available water. Some of the pivots were constructed just before the Covid restrictions were announced. Werner says they had to erect one themselves, but this was entirely possible thanks to the practical design and continued remote support from Rudi and his team.

He says he can phone Rudi any time. Even when he is not available someone else in the team will lend a helping hand, because according to Werner, “They all know what they are doing”.

From Agrico’s side, Rudi says that they understand the difficulties experienced by farmers in the vast area of the Northern Cape and further into the neighbouring countries. “It is not always possible to reach outlying areas on short notice. That is why we help farmers to understand and take care of their own equipment. We make sure that they have the basic components available to keep the motors running and the wheels turning on every pivot. In this dry heat, farmers simply cannot afford to miss irrigation cycles.”

Meanwhile the lovely red Bonsmara ladies of Hartebeesloop are enjoying the green spoils under the Agrico pivots without concern.

Werner Mouton in front of his maize.

Maize in the desert! Werner Mouton, Crop Manager of Hartebeesloop, says with the good water applied by die efficient and reliable Agrico pivots, the sky is the limit!

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