Just for the record, I am not writing on behalf, nor am I representing a specific view of the Kalimbeza community. But as a concerned Namibian citizen and a native of Kalimbeza, just like other countless people out there, I deserve answers on this issue. Please allow me to air a few concerns on the operations of the Kalimbeza rice project in the Zambezi region.
Firstly, the community of Kalimbeza sacrificed and availed thousands of acres of our grazing and cropfieldsto government in order for it to create what was supposed to be the biggest employment- creator in the area, and hopefully one of the biggest local food suppliers in the country. Ironically, it turned out to be the opposite as the project itself has consumed more from government coffers than it has given to the community and the nation. Metaphorically,the "Kalimbeza rice project is a dairy cow that eats more fodder but does not produce a single drop of milk". Who needs such a cow anyway?
I am quite disappointed and saddened to see how much and for how long government keeps on investing in this project without the nation and the community seeing any tangible results on either community or national level. In my mind, I have come to conclude that the whole project will end up being a flop if nothing is done immediately to rescue it from this imminent demise, as we have seen before with other similar projects in the area.
The project was incepted back in 2007, where it merely started as a research project that was spearheaded by the University of Namibia's faculty of agriculture, and it was later handed on to a government subsidiary called Agribusdev, whose main mandate is "Managing and Supervising the Green Scheme Programme in Namibia’’ to achieve the desired objectives of the Green Scheme policy. Ironically, around 700 000 Namibians are food-insecure, yet Agribusdev has more than 11 green schemes.
Simillarily, 15 years later, the Kalimbeza project seems to yield nothing but just the corroding and ageing multi-million dollar infrastructure. I donot really grasp where the problem lays because government has invested more money in this project's infrastructure, starting from administration and storage buildings, silos, state-of-the-art farm implements such as tractors, planters and harvesters, a tarred road, weighbridge, and the list goes on.
Secondly, the management and overall day-to- day running of the project itself also raises more questions than answers as the treatment that has been received by our people is quite inhumane. This is in reference to the part-time(casual) workers who go for months without receiving their salaries. I for one have worked there, and can attest to it as I have seen it first-hand, where workers will go up to six months without pay. This is happening in an independent Namibia, all in the name of alleviating poverty and hunger. What an irony indeed. One thing am sure of is that people are really angry, as literally "A hungry man is an angry man". I could really sense it their speech during our interactions, but they are unfortunately afraid to speak out as their jobs hangs on a thread.
Come to think of it, I can’t help but wonder if indeed there is a proper structure above that ensures that the project is running smoothly. If there is, are they really aware that there are casual workers working there, just trying to make ends meet for their families? Are the proper annual audits done on this project, or not? Like I said earlier, as a concerned community member and citizen, I deserve to know.
Thirdly, the fear of the failure of this project is not just imagined, but comes from experience! In the same Kalimbeza community, we had a fish farming project that was fully funded by government, where it invested millions in infrastructure. But the project just died a natural death. The infrastructure was vandalised, and the few greedy ones amongst us took government properties for themselves. Ashtonishly, up to this day, no one has been charged or taken to task about it. Equally, we don’t want to see a similar situation happen to the rice project, as this is our only hope to fight unemployment and poverty in our community and Namibia as a whole.
In conclusion, based on this background, one may ask whether this is all brought forth by a question of grassroots leadership, or is it a lack of monitoring and supervision from the top? Nevertheless, I think we need an immediate intervention on this one because as a community, we have lost enough already and can’t afford to lose anymore.