A Beautiful Bounty of Butternuts

How one small farming project in Mariental is solving food insecurity in Namibia.

Lithon’s founder, Adriaan Grobler, is passionate about venture engineering and the impact that comes from investing in these kinds of projects. 


In essence, Venture Engineering brings engineering thinking and skills to innovative ideas and projects that can significantly improve life around them. If you’d like to know more about Venture Engineering and its impact, we dig into that here. But we’re here today to talk about one such project that put Lithon’s agricultural engineering skills and passion for innovation to work. It began, in Mariental, towards the end of 2022, and is now seeing a bountiful harvest.


A Project that Grew from a Small Seed

The project, which aims to address food security in Namibia, involved a collaboration with United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), IFarms, Hochland Farms, and the Namibian Correctional Service (NCS). In this partnership, Lithon provided engineering skills and project management, IFarms contributed funding and agricultural technology, Hochland Farms provided agricultural expertise, and the NCS gave access to their land and supplied manual labour. WFP and Lithon Foundation are helping with distributing the food to those in need. 


This team of committed individuals came together to make a difference in Namibia and the project is a testament to the true purpose of Venture Engineering. From project inception, to harvesting, transportation, marketing, and more, it has been amazing to work with so many committed partners!


What and Where to Grow

Namibia’s arid climate and less fertile soil make farming conditions challenging, but the ground in Mariental proved suitable for growing butternuts, pumpkins and cabbage. Although, not without some innovative thinking to combat the dry conditions. These vegetables are highly nutritious and also have a long shelf life, so they’re guaranteed to feed many bellies over several weeks. On top of that, they are easy to work with which was an important consideration for the unskilled labourers. 


Exploring Regenerative Farming

A key component of this project was to devise and experiment with regenerative farming techniques, which is a farming method aimed at improving the health and productivity of the land by mimicking natural systems. This strategy, combined with cutting-edge technology, is where Lithon’s engineering prowess truly shone!


With some out-the-box thinking, we used regenerative farming techniques on two blocks (out of four blocks of vegetables) of jacqueline butternuts. An exciting first for Namibia was the use of Zeolite, a mineral-rich volcanic rock that retains water, in the soil. Because Mariental is so dry, the Zeolite acted like a sponge, increasing the soil’s productivity and preventing pollution of nearby watercourses. As a bonus, it also keeps the worms away!


What’s Next? 

Even though the project was a trial, the team still managed to harvest 43 tonnes of butternuts and pumpkins in June 2023. These are currently in storage in Windhoek and are being distributed to various feeding schemes over the next few weeks.


The success of this project has given us insight into how we can use our learnings to scale these ideas and inspire future initiatives. The ultimate goal is to show Namibians that it is possible to grow nutritious food, despite Namibia’s difficult conditions.


As we look forward, we are eager to continue applying our engineering expertise to make a positive impact in our community and contribute to a more food-secure future for Namibia.

If you’d like to chat to our team of agricultural engineering experts about your next project, get in touch with us at: info@lithon.com