Swakara growing steadily
Karakul farming almost disappeared in the 1980s and 90s as sentiment turned against fur. But over the past ten years, this form of farming has made a dramatic comeback. Today, there is an estimated 400 commercial and communal producers in the country. This is according to a draft study of the Karakul industry of Namibia.
The industry, which celebrates its 106 anniversary this year, is considered to be relatively small in terms of its contribution towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but it still provide the livelihood for around 2000 employees and over 10,000 dependants.
According to newly elected Chairperson of the Karakul Board, Raimar von Hase, the industry produced 118 pelts in 2012 and formed its Swakara Industry Forum in September the same year. He said Namibia is the only country that produces Swakara which in turn is used by furriers worldwide to fashion their distinctive Swakara garments, valued as very expensive fashion items.
Von Hase said the official breed should now be referred to as Swakara and not Karakul. The Karakul Board Chairman is a respected farmer and have around 1070 breeding sheep. Since the first animals arrived from Persia in 1906, the breed has been refined and adapted for local conditions hence von Hase’s appeal that Swakara must be recognised as a separate type of sheep.
“Breeding Swakara is suited to the environment therefore our aim is to maintain the standard of Swakara in terms of ethics and farming and producing pelts,” said von Hase, adding that every customer who wears a Swakara garment should be assured that the pelts are of the highest quality and in line with internationally accepted norms.
According to von Hase, the draft study also shows that 30% of producers come from the communal areas which he said is the fastest growing sector in Swakara farming. A final report will be made available in early February.