By: Ellen Shihepo
Aina ‘The Farmer’ Imalwa is making something out of the soil. Born in Oshakati, in the Oshana Region, she was raised by her grandmother who passed away before Aina had finished school. Life was hard without her grandmother, but Aina was resourceful. After finishing grade 12, she became a hairdresser and opened a mobile salon to support herself. She calls this period of her life; “The Hustle”.
In 2015, Aina came across an advertisement by AgriBusDev calling on youth to be trained in farming. She told NewsonOne that she applied out of curiosity; “I applied for the sake of applying. I didn’t know what it was, really. I went to do crop farming training at Mashare Irrigation Training Centre in Kavango East.” She did not see it yet, but the direction of her life had begun to change forever. Aina said that she started falling in love with farming. “We got a chance to visit all the green schemes in Kavango Region where we found other young farmers. In my whole life, I did not know there were other young farmers in Namibia,” she said.
Aina went on to obtain a certificate in Horticultural and Agronomy but only took up full time farming activities during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. She now owns a 3 hectare field at Etunda in the Omusati Region that she runs with her two younger brothers.
Her brothers, 21 and 24 years old, were sitting idle at home before she roped them into the farming business. The siblings are now partners. “I started working with my younger brother. He is very hard working but it was not easy to make him understand what farming is and make him fall in love with something he does not know. Now he is at the stage where I am. I made him my manager. My other brother is now also with us”. The siblings produce tomatoes, cabbages, onions, mangoes, apples, spinach and a number of other crop varieties. They sell the produce at the Oshakati open market on Mondays and Fridays.
Aina aspires to become a commercial farmer and to see local youth treat farming as a lucrative business. She also said “the Namibian youth have a misconception that farming is only for the illiterate, for men or the elderly, which is why the country underproduces sufficient food to feed the nation.”
“Anyone can be a farmer,” Aina said, challenging the youth to “let go of the fear of being seen working in the dirt and chasing office life because farming creates employment and makes you your own boss”.
“I am grateful,” she said, of working with family and being her own boss. Aina wants to be an encouragement to other Namibians that farming is a profitable and joy-filled career choice.