16 Apr 2021
In Wilhelmstal, between Okahandja and Karibib, you can take a break on both sides of the B1 - the long-existent Wilhelmstal Padstal and opposite the Kwetu Coffeeshop offer various products. Kwetu opened in mid-December 2019 and is a bit hidden behind large bushes.
The veranda with a view of the lawn invites you to linger while enjoying the coffee and freshly baked cake. For the children there is a slide with a climbing system and aviaries with parrots.
The word Kwetu is Kiswahili and means “at home” or “to meet, coming together”. The word is also used in other Bantu languages, including Namibia and South Africa.
The selection of farm products in the little shop is amazing, from baked biscuits, farm honey from the Kalahari, pickled onions, chutney, mustard and homemade jams.
Commercial cool drinks are not found here and that is part of the concept, only homemade and farm products are sold here.
At second glance, you can see different types of cheese in the display and, one shelf below, pre-packaged raw steaks for “braai meat” (barbeque) as well as bratwurst, also the grill delicacy known in this country as “boere wors”, (sausage) smoked meat, dry sausage and biltong for the road.
So, if you have forgotten to take the cool box with the meat along from home on the way to the camping weekend, you can stock up at the Kwetu Coffeeshop.
From Mecklenburg to Wilhelmstal
Inge Geldenhuys came up with the idea of opening a shop selling home-made and farm products. It was also clear that coffee and freshly baked cake would also be offered.
Geldenhuys is a qualified agricultural engineer by profession, comes from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where she also worked in a managerial position in an LPG (agricultural production cooperative). "The changes in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall changed a lot, but it also opened up new perspectives," she says, "I wanted to build my own life as a farmer somewhere else."
But where? “I could not speak English very well at the time. In 1994 I saw an advertisement in the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that a farm was for sale in Namibia. I did research about the country that used to be called German South West Africa and I thought that German will certainly still be spoken there. "
Inge flew to Namibia, viewed the farm and decided to buy it.
A few months later - happily divorced - she moved to Namibia with her two younger children. The eldest daughter was in high school at the time and stayed in Germany to complete her final exams.
Due to circumstances beyond Inge's control, the farm purchase at Wilhelmstal ultimately did not go through. She bought the tomato sauce factory in Leonardville and after a while moved it to Kappsfarm, where she also rented a house.
There she started making goat cheese again. “I had already made sheep's cheese in Germany and started again with cheeses at Kappsfarm,” she recalls. Restaurants in Windhoek and lodges in the area were grateful buyers for their cheese, as were shops. She also grew oyster mushrooms for sale.
Inge met her second husband, who shared her love for farming and agricultural production with her. The tomato-sauce factory was sold, and in 2005 the couple bought approximately one hectare of land with an older, cozy farmhouse at Wilhelmstal, almost directly on the B1 trunk road.
After a break, Inge began making cheese again; the global stock market crisis was a wake-up call that savings did not necessarily generate enough interest for retirement. Husband Frans was responsible for the production of the various types of sausage. The meat for this was bought from surrounding farms.
They sold their products every Saturday at the Windhoek organic market, called “Bio-Markt”. "That meant getting up at four o'clock in the morning, charging everything and driving the almost 140km route, setting up the stand and selling it from 8am, then packing everything up again and back again at noon, for 13 years".
After the death of her husband, Inge sold at the organic market alone for three years.
The own farm shop in Namibia
“I began to think about whether I could set up a kind of farm shop here at home, with coffee and cake, a meeting place for travellers, farmers and neighbours from the area,” Inge explains. The concept took shape, with farm products and home-made items from Inge, farmers' wives and the surrounding area such as Omaruru, Karibib and Usakos to fill the shelves. The preparations, including the structural changes in the outbuilding, took two years.
News of the project quickly got around by means of the Namibian “bush telegraph”. Women offered their products. “I said to everyone, let's see how it sells, and see if the products sell well. The opening of the Kwetu Coffeeshop was in mid-December 2019,” Inge explains.
The concept worked and exceeded their expectations. Although the restrictions caused by the corona pandemic from March 2020 on nationwide not only affected the economy in the country, but also restricted travel, the shop remained open and a temporary closure could be avoided. “I was lucky when I think back now,” she says. The opening times are daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Homemade goodies from all over the country
Since she had often watched her husband making the different types of sausage, Inge continued after his death, now also producing salami. "Of course it made a difference whether you are just watching or suddenly making sausage yourself, that wasn't easy, but I succeeded."
In the past, she would never have dreamed of having a farm shop and producing sausages in many variations in Africa one day. Two employees, Sonja and Melanie actively support her in this.
The product range on the shelves and the sales counter is abundant: wild plum juice from Kombat, prickly pear products from the south, honey from the Kalahari, homemade meat pies from the coast, farm butter, cottage cheese and much more, apart from the many types of cheese. One gets quite nostalgic when reading the labels and remember the good old days when town children went to farms on vacation and were amazed at what was homemade there.
The delivery of the delicacies is unconventionally organised the ‘Namibian way’: you enquire about carpooling or “lifts” for the products, help each other, the network works very well.
Brigitte Stegmann from Omaruru works at the Kwetu Coffeeshop from Friday to Sunday and brings the products with from there.
Homemade soap is to be offered soon, Inge already has ideas.
Alpaca scarves from Namibia
After a long day at work, Inge's “hobby” is knitting scarves and shawls according to complicated patterns with wool she has spun herself. She already has nine hand spinning wheels. The merino and mohair wool comes from the South and caterpillar silk from the Omaheke Region. Even alpaca wool is available here, as some farmers in Namibia now also keep alpacas. The handicrafts are selling faster than she can knit them.
She doesn't long to go back to Germany. "Here in Namibia I'm doing what I wanted – creating something of my own in agriculture, I'm happy here". One definitely believes her.
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