I am certain that very few Namibians have made it to the only Island we (Namibia) have, the Impalila Island, in the Zambezi region. This is my attempt to tag you on a mission my colleagues and I engaged on.
It’s a cool dry Wednesday morning in Katima Mulilo, my team and I have to drive to Impalila Island (about to complete a ministerial mission. Last time we drove into that direction we ended at Kasika by then, again, on a ministerial mission-scouting and spraying African Red Locust. I guess that gives you an idea about the ministry I am referring to, Yes, Agriculture, Water and Land Reform.
One objective of the mission was to monitor the progress of several beneficiaries that benefited from various ministerial programmes, Dry Land Crop Production Programme , Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Programme, Horticulture Support Programme, Poultry Value Chain Development Scheme and the Small Stock Distribution and Development Project in Communal Areas . Through these programmes, government is subsidising crop and livestock producers with production inputs, materials and services.
Let me not bore you, for those interested in any of these programmes, visit our Agricultural Development Centres (ADCs) countrywide.
Back to the mission. As per our arrangements, we had to pick up our media colleagues to join us. Everyone was ready by 07h00 and drive to Nakabolelwa where we met to strategise the slippery, muddy, watery and long drive to Kasika before Impalila Island. We had to re-group for us to fit in at least two vehicles (4x4 double cabs)-one with technocrats and one with Simon Nghipandulwa-my colleague, media practitioners, and myself as a driver. Kasika is not far by observation, but the road type made it seem like you’re driving to Malawi-my longest trip as a driver. It took us about two hours manoeuvring floodplains of Kabbe South before we got to Kasika.
Head of our team, James Nzehengwa, had already made arrangements for a canoe (generator operated) to take us to Impalila Island through Chobe River. We had to leave our vehicles behind and board the canoe. I had no experience in this thing floating on water where I could see crocodiles and hippos grazing on the riverbank. I didn’t show my fear and hesitation though, I allowed the ladies we were with to do that part.
The operator, even though young, looked very experienced and unbothered He was doing business. We invaded that canoe like grasshoppers on a stalk of maize-good luck imagining this, lol. We all became videographers and photographers, the excitement. In about 45 minutes, we could see our destination, Impalila Island.
Nzehengwa told us he had made arrangements for a ‘taxi’ to transport us to our farmers around the island. In my mind, I thought it was an actual taxi-wrong guess, it was a green old Toyota (1200i) single cab, I guess it’s a 2004 model. It was operated by a senior citizen, also looked experienced. The problem with this ‘taxi’, we had to push it to start the engine every time we stopped. The island was ‘very wet’ but this Toyota taxi rolled like it had four-wheel drive, very impressive.
This island differs from the last on-land we saw, Kasika, it was very rocky and full of unique trees. I was surprised to find common indigenous fruit trees (omive) that had berries/Eembe fruits-we unapologetically consumed these fruits all along. Locals told us there are hyenas, jackals and other wild animals that would prey on our farmers’ goats-that we gave for breeding purposes. I was shocked to learn that there is a “State House” as well.
After visiting about three farmers, it started raining the so-called ‘cats and dogs’. We were not prepared for rain at all. After the first ‘rain showers/round’ we hid in a cuca shop that belonged to one of our (ministerial) beneficiaries. There, while we wait for the rain to ‘cease’, Nzehengwa bought cool drinks and some locally made bread. I ate those bread with no mercy-I knew we would’ve a long day.
The rain had interrupted our programme, it was becoming hard to drive around with camera equipment in an open canopy of the 1200i old Toyota taxi. We opted to visit one more last farmer before we head back to our departing area.
I had rain experience, but the Impalila Island rain was different, heavy large drops and very consistent for about two hours. It became impossible to continue driving, we had to stop at one farm.
There was literally no place on our bodies we could hide our phones without them getting wet. Fortunately, the mobile device I had could stand water/wetness-at least we had one way to record proof of persistence towards our work.
After the last farm visit, we had to proceed to the boarding area, but we first had to pass by our ministerial office to observe a few things.
After inspection at the office building, we drove in the direction where we had to go board our canoe, it was flooding everywhere. About two kilometres before we reach the boarding area, our taxi got a tyre punch, without hesitation, we grabbed our belongings (cameras wrapped in plastics and so on) and continued on foot. We told the taxi operator to meet us at the boarding area so we pay him.
This was the time that the entire Impalila rain of that day landed on us. Every man for himself and God for us all, we marched. To distract myself from feeling too cold, I was taking photos and videos of everyone as we walked dressed in rain.
Regardless of what pathway we took, we made it through by making use of the grasses (for easy manoeuvring). Along the way, we found colleagues from the Force struggling to get through, they missed the road that could be easier for them. A few towing happened till we reached Nakabolelwa.
Everyone was looking forward to reaching their dwellings, and definitely grab a cup of coffee.
These all reminded me of a phrase in my CV that “I can work under any circumstances”, I never knew this was part of the ‘circumstances’.
I hope you enjoyed and looking forward to meeting you one day at Impalila Island, Zambezi region.
*Jona Musheko is a PR Practitioner in the Ministry of Agriculture,
Water and Land Reform.