© Owini and Agricultiva from the Mitrelli group
A resource-rich country, Angola is home to fertile soils, a favorable climate, and about 52 million Ha. of agricultural land. A nation with a flourishing tradition of family-based farming prior to its independence from Portugal in 1975, a prosperous heritage that was terminated due to decades of conflict
That being said, Angola has long relied on importation to complete its food security needs, which proved to be highly disadvantageous in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) and its sudden, abrupt, and brash halt to worldwide trade. It became strikingly evident that alternative means towards providing food security must be secured, by converting new, fertile lands into large, modern, commercial farms that leverage the latest farming technology to boost yields, while reducing the cost of production.
The Samba Caju Farm project, with its integrated earth dam, is executed by two innovative companies: Agricultiva, an agriculture company and Owini, a water company under the umbrella of Mitrelli. Until now, Samba Caju’s water supply hailed solely from rainwater, limiting the growing season to just half of the year. By establishing large modern soybean and corn production farms irrigated by their very own dam, the companies are enabling water to be supplied to the farm even during drought season, without usurping the water supply that is shared by the surrounding villages. In this way, they are empowering Angola’s farmers to earn gainful employment and move toward the UN’s second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2): Zero Hunger. This, while transforming the country from an importer of such commodities into a major world exporter.
Samba Caju – An advanced agricultural project in a remote location
The current Samba Caju farm spans over 2,000 Ha of land and is considered one of the most advanced and innovative farms in Angola. Located in a remote area with an optimal climate for agriculture, the farm focuses on growing corn and soybeans, two crops that are essential for keeping the livestock sector fed and producing enough poultry, eggs, and other proteins for human consumption.
One of the challenges faced by Agricultiva's project managers was acidic soil, but like the other obstacles, the company managed to cope with the low pH level and eventually cultivated the soil for agriculture. By using the proper training and develop the rich methods to cultivate the land all have made it possible to achieve a thriving agricultural farm growing rich crops.
Staffed by trained locals who are now skilled and authorized farmers, the farm can obtain crop rotation while ensuring both rain-fed and irrigated cropping using center-pivot irrigation systems. The crops are expected to be watered by the 18 meters high and over 400 meters wide dam, capable of storing 3,000,000 cubic meters of water from local water sources at any given moment, by the end of 2021. At the same time, Owini's planning of the dam enables water to flow to the farm and its residents without harming the surroundings, a decision made following the completion of an in-depth hydrological report. The result: the dam is expected to begin watering the crops by the end of 2021. Farmers will no longer be forced to wait for the rain to fall to nourish their crops, especially in summer and in times of drought.
From GPS-guided tractors to satellite-connected monitoring systems and smart center-pivot irrigation systems, Samba Caju brings advanced and innovative solutions to an aged and traditional field, with marked results: Samba Caju’s annual yields have begun to grow. Next year, 1,300 Ha of the farm’s land will be fully irrigated, boosting the 12 tons of rainfed corn crops to an annual yield of 19 tons per hectare over the course of two harvesting seasons. This, as just one of the several seed/bean crops that will together yield an estimated 30,000 tons per year (compared to the current 10,000 tons per year) and lead to an expansion of the farm’s agricultural land to 2,000 hectares over the course of 2021.
More jobs, better training
Working synergistically together, Agriultiva and Owini have proven that two heads are better than one; especially when a global pandemic threatens food and job security worldwide. The companies thought fast and trained local farmers to leverage new skills, knowledge, tools, and technologies. In doing so, savvy and talented Angolese farmers can now receive training and improve their financial standing by being able to work the lands and earn wages year-round. This, while simultaneously helping their families and communities achieve food security from within the bounds of their home country. And by providing housing for senior management and technical staff, much of the headache surrounding making a respectable living in the midst of a recession has been eased, so farmers can focus on what they know and love best: their land and their crops.
Fast food security for all
Despite the challenges brought on by Covid-19, the Samba Caju project was developed and continues to be implemented at breakneck speed - within the allotted timeline - and the fruits of the companies’ partnership and labor continue to be reaped. As such, Angola’s goal of mitigating its dependence on importation and achieving Zero Hunger is nearer than ever. For a country that is not blessed with rain year-round, the advent of the Samba Caju farm and its advanced irrigation capabilities are tremendous first steps on the road to food security, and a promising future for locals of all walks of life.