Recipients of government’s food bank initiative have described the programme as a beacon of hope, which ensures they and their dependents do not go to bed on an empty stomach.
Today the programme provides food to 11 000 households, translating into 45 000 beneficiaries across the country.
The programme is being implemented in peri-urban and urban areas and is distributed to registered poverty-stricken households.
Emiliana Munyala, a beneficiary from Oshakati, related that if it was not for the food bank, she might have died of hunger. “The food bank really helped me because I was in extreme poverty. Today, because of the food bank, my children at least have the required meals per day and do not have to miss school because they are hungry,” said Munyala. The same sentiments were shared by Oshakati resident Dominicus Hainyongi who is thankful for the monthly food parcels. “I am indebted to the government for the free food my family receives monthly,” said Hainyongi.
Tangeni Mwashekele, the control administrative officer for logistics and warehouse for the programme, said the project has been a success and has impacted the lives of thousands of beneficiaries across the country. “The programme is a success and the beneficiaries have come out to share very positive testimonies how the food has impacted their lives,”
He said the beneficiaries receive food parcels monthly. Although there are hiccups hindering the timeous delivery of food, the items are distributed immediately once available.
The food bank was launched by President Hage Geingob in Windhoek in 2016 as a pilot project in the Khomas region. The programme was fully rolled out to all the regions in 2019. The objective of the bank is to alleviate poverty and to ensure that no one dies of hunger.
The programme administrator said as directed in the second instalment of the Harambe Prosperity Plan, the food bank project is to be transferred into a cash-based system by the end of next year. At present, Mwashekele said the transition is still at an infant stage.
“We are still busy with the documentation process. There are a lot of modalities that need sorting before the programme is implemented fully,” said Mwashekele.
The proposed system was received with mixed feelings. Although some felt that it is better to receive money, others felt that the needs differ from person to person and may not necessarily require the same
things. Munyala said it is better to receive food.
“I prefer food over money. Once I have food I do not have to worry about food for the rest of the month, but if I get money, I might spend it on other needs and may not have enough food at the end of the month,” said Munyala. Hainyondi on the other hand said while it is sufficient to have food, he needs additional money to sort out his children’s needs. “Sometimes we have food but especially at the beginning of each year, we lack money for stationery,” Hainyongi related.
In his state of the nation address in April this year, President Geingob reiterated his administration was committed to alleviate poverty even though there were strong reservations of implementing a universal basic income grant (BIG), which he said would be entirely misplaced.
Geingob said, instead, the ongoing food bank initiative, marginalised grant and feeding scheme will be consolidated into a modified basic income grant, “with clear eligibility criteria to determine qualifying beneficiaries.”
The implementation of a monthly basic income grant has divided opinions over the years. Proponents of the BIG initiative have been putting pressure on government to introduce the monthly grant through a proposed cash payment of N$500 for people aged 19 to 59.
The coalition last year re-launched the universal BIG campaign, citing the grant will have long-term social protection relief to afford Namibians basic human necessities.