Survival of the fittest for Kunene residents in absence of drought relief
WINDHOEK – With the end of drought relief food distribution last year, it is now survival of the fittest for people in the Kunene Region. They depend on livestock and crops for survival, but the persisting drought spell of the last three years killed their livestock and there was no maize or mahangu harvest.
“There are families residing at dumpsites in Opuwo,” Julius Kaujova, the councillor of Sesfontein Constituency and Chairperson of the Kunene Regional Council told New Era on Wednesday.
Community members who spoke to New Era noted the “dire” situation since the end of the drought relief scheme last year.
“People are affected by the absence of drought relief because the good rain fell late and those who planted did not harvest much. It only really started raining well in February and by April, winter was already kicking in,” explained Kaujova.
“It is survival of the fittest here,” added Kaujova. He explained that the former Kaokoland people are relying on pensioners’ social grants for survival.
“People are buying maize meal on credit from supermarkets. They take a 50kg bag of maize meal, which costs about N$450 plus tea and sugar, and wait to pay for it with the pensioners’ grant. It’s very hard. If you come here after payday you will see long queues of pensioners at supermarkets paying for their debts and it’s not just in Opuwo,” explained Kaujova.
Others survive on hand-to-mouth menial jobs such as collecting wood and selling in towns such as Opuwo, Khorixas and Outjo, said Kaujova.
He cited the Namibia Statistics Agency’s data indicating that the Kunene Region is among the poorest regions in Namibia.
“If only government could prioritise the region because of the abject poverty in which people live,” said councillor Kaujova. Kunene does not have industries such as factories “to dissolve unemployment rate”, he added. In addition to this, he said the region does not really do well in terms of education with so many children failing Grade 10 and 12 while others drop out of school, primarily for economic reasons.
To support this view, the Opuwo Rural Constituency councillor, Kazeongere Tjeundo said school attendance is very poor in rural areas.
Children can stay up to two weeks out of school if they are not enrolled into the hostel, explained Tjeundo.
“Drought relief food used to help because parents would prepare porridge and children could go to school, but that has stopped so there are a lot of children herding cattle instead.”
“People in Kunene live in more abject poverty and unemployment compared to the rest of the country,” added Kaujova.
“We are not advocating for handouts but sustainable projects to develop our region,” said Kaujova. He said the region is rich in terms of natural resources such as mining activities and green scheme. “What are we doing to develop these resources?”
Kaujova added that there are good project proposals but when it is time to implement them, regional councillors are told, “There is no money”.
Kunene Governor, Marius Sheya added: “people are really affected and it’s very difficult. Hence the visit earlier this month by Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Zephania Kameeta to assess the situation on the ground.”
“They are planning on rolling out the Food Bank in Opuwo and Khorixas,” added Sheya.
But, the governor said that the days of depending on handouts are numbered. This is because they are embarking on a number of development programmes that would be able to assist the region in becoming self-sustainable.
Amongst others, three areas have been identified for green scheme projects, namely in Fransfontein, Warmquelle and Sesfontein.
“These are all fountain areas where water is running non-stop,” added the governor. There are also plans to revive gardening projects in the region with the aim of commercialising them.
“We’re really tired of begging,” he noted, saying the region too can produce food that can be consumed by other regions. At least 32 percent of the Namibian population, or 700 000 people, depended on government’s drought relief programme, according to the Agricultural Input and Household Food Security Situation Report of 2016.
Since 2012, the government has been putting efforts and resources in mitigating impacts of drought. Over 70 percent of the Namibian population derives their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture, according to the report.
2018-09-03 09:19:09 22 days ago