There is no doubt about the severe economic impact of Covid-19, with the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) recently revealing that between April and June this year alone the country’s economic activity decreased by around N$4 billion compared to 2019, representing a reduction of over 11%, making it the worst downturn in the country’s history.
This drastic and unexpected economic slump on Namibian households is undeniable as many businesses closed, leaving many people unemployed and even more with significantly reduced salaries. However, these factors have exposed the resilience of Namibian households with many turning to backyard business to make ends meet.
One such household in Windhoek, belonging to Martha April, has taken to manufacturing ‘boerseep’, literally translated as ‘farmer’s soap’, which is a traditional soap that has for decades been used by various Namibian communities. April explained that the soap is an excellent addition to normal household supplies and has a range of uses including for washing dishcloths and to whiten laundry and is particularly useful for stubborn stains.
“When the Covid-19 lockdown hit us and we realised that my husband’s salary was severely affected we knew we had to do something,” said April, acknowledging that the lockdown was the main factor for her entrepreneurial decision.
April initially used social media to promote the ‘boerseep’ product and eventually managed to secure shelf-space at leading retailer, Spar. Today April’s home-made soap can be found in Spar outlets in Windhoek and Rehoboth as well as in smaller outlets in Walvis Bay, Otjiwarongo and Elisenheim outside the capital.
April also amplified calls for the establishment of a backyard business association, which she said is necessary to provide support and guidance to small businesses.
“Covid-19 has made us realise that we need to get up and support ourselves. However, we would like to see more support and promotion through an association that represents all of us,” said April.
Another entrepreneur in Windhoek’s Rocky Crest neighbourhood, Maria Coetzee, started jewellery making as a hobby as far back as 2009. Coetzee revealed that she has since elevated her hobby into a fully-fledged home business.
“I feel there is a definite need for a backyard business association to endorse and support our efforts. The association could perhaps assist us to find customers, which is currently one of my main challenges,” said Coetzee.
Meanwhile, retired nurse, Ragel Waters, bakes fresh cookies daily that she sells to churches, family and friends and that she promotes on social media. Waters also encouraged everyone negatively affected by the pandemic to start their own cottage business.
“I would advise everyone who is at home right now not to waste time and start their own business immediately. It is better to support yourself than to look for handouts or to ask others for assistance,” said Waters.
She added that a backyard business association would add tremendous value to home-based initiatives through promotion and even commercial advice. Her enterprise known as Motherings Home Biscuits, Waters said she bakes daily to ensure she can offer her customers fresh products.
“People immediately notice if something is freshly made and also if it is home-made which many people prefer,” Waters concluded.