Friday 14 May 2021
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Foodbanks in agronomic communities: A curse or blessing?

The Namibia Sun newspaper reported on July 11, 2018, that Minster Zephania Kameeta who is responsible for poverty eradication and social protection in the Namibia government, visited Eenhana, Ohangwena Region.
The Minister informed the Regional leadership of his intention to role out the Foodbank in the town by September this year.
Though the Minister emphasized that the free distribution of food in Enhana is targeted to the needy, the fact remains that it is a new town situated in the middle of agronomic producers.
The Namibia Sun newspaper of August 9, 2018 carried a lead story titled: “Mahangu producers have no market!”.
The paper showed a picture of Meme Anne Nora Lameck standing along- side a shed full of still to be threshed mahangu(pearl millet). Meme Anne Nora Lameck is a resident of Oupili, near Okongo in Ohangwena Region. The question arises therefore whether the introduction in this mahangu producing Region of foodbanks is a curse or blessing.
The idea of establishing foodbanks was introduced in 2013 as a response to the plight of poor people who established themselves at municipal dumps to collect spoiled or rotten or expired food. The problem was particularly acute at Kupferberg Dump Site in Windhoek. At the time between 400-600 people were frequenting the dump site to collect the dumped food. Then Deputy Prime Minister Marco Hausiku prepared a Cabinet memorandum in which he set out the purpose of the envisioned foodbank. The foodbank was meant to provide food to those who were foraging expired food at the dumps. The food was to be distributed through a programme of food for work. People were organised to clean streets, hospitals, public parks and so on. Government was expected to negotiate with food retailers to buy near to expire food from them at negotiated prices. Such foods were to be given to charities for distribution to needy people who were registered for food- for- work. This was deemed as an interim measure while an in-depth study was going to be conducted on long-term framework for job creation, poverty reduction, food security and practical skills training.
When President Hage Geingob re-introduced the idea of foodbank in 2016 the original idea was lost. The foodbank idea was turned into free food distribution for ever. In October 2017, the Windhoek Observer newspaper reported that some 20,000 people in Windhoek were receiving free food on monthly basis. Parcels of food items included maize meal, tinned fish, cooking oil, brown sugar and a bar of soap. Most of these items were sourced from local retailers. Some of them are in fact imported into Namibia which means that the foodbank is promoting employment in other countries instead at home. Brazil has a similar programme of distributing food to those in need but such food is sourced from small producers, thus empowering them.
The introduction of foodbanks in agronomic communities should follow a different path. Foodbanks should support productivity rather than consumption. Communities in agronomic zones should be capacitated to increase their food production and house-hold food security.
These communities live under two fundamental ideals, namely “sha na kulya osha nakulonga” and “… okugandya oku tsilika”. This means to survive one must work and to share with someone is to save. These communities live by the principles of hard-work and reciprocity.
Members of these communities are expected to till their fields during the agricultural season. The settlers in Eenhana have mahangu fields somewhere. Some have mahangu fields as far as Mpungu Area in Kavango West Region or Omuthiya in Oshikoto Region. Introducing free imported food items in these communities shall compromise the long held traditions of hard work and mutual assistance.
There are communities in Ohangwena Region, especially in Okongo area whose traditiona life support systems have been destroyed. These are the San communities. There is every good reason to establish foodbanks for them. In the long run they too need to be provided with an area which they can be assisted to develop into Community Conservancy. This will enable them to lead a decent life free from hand-outs. One would expect that the planned land conference shall pay serious attention to the plight of San communities whom we collectively wronged over centuries.
My unsolicited advice to the foodbank Minister is that contact Meme Anne Nora Lameck of Oupuli village near Okongo. Buy up her mahangu.
Take mahangu to local millers. Get mahungu flour packed in twenty kilogramme bags. Distribute mahangu flour to the needy on the basis of food -for- work principle.
No free food in agronomic communities. No creation of pauper class among people who since time immemorial supported themselves through hard work and mutual assistance.
The foodbank idea seems to have been turned into political favouritism.
This is sad! To prey on the plight of the poor people is politically immoral. People need to be assisted to produce for themselves. Our Gospel preachers at funerals tell us we “…shall break our bread with sweet”! The nation should therefore sweet for its daily bread. If Namibia aspires to be an industrialised country by 2030, all Namibians must become producers in order to grow the economy and develop our beloved patrimony.

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