26 June 2012

Namibia: Earning a Living Through Thatching Grass

Mukuvi — Berthilde Mungava lives in the village of Mukuvi, about 140 kilometres east of Rundu, where she makes a living from selling thatching grass harvested from the dense forest surrounding the village.

The 30-year-old Mungava and mother of two earns as much as N$8 000 per month from the sale of thatching grass. She is just one of the many poverty-stricken people in the Kavango Region who make ends meet by harvesting grass, which is in abundance in the nearby forest, in order to sell.

"Since I am unemployed, I decided to start harvesting thatching grass for selling to feed my family and to pay my children's school fees," she said. The period between November and December is Muvanga's busiest during which she makes as much as N$35 000 from the monthly sales.

She employs a few villagers to help her harvest the grass and to move it from the forest to the roadside so that it can be easily spotted by potential buyers.

"The grass you see here is just a small part of my harvest, the rest is stored at a harvesting area in the forest," she said.

Since the thriving thatching grass industry is unregulated, locals are often ripped off by established business people when it comes to pricing.

As governments around the world cut services and withdraw from regulating markets, cooperatives are being considered a useful means to manage risks for members and to keep markets efficient, especially for marginalised communities and the rural poor.

Life has not been easy for Mungava, but her aspirations for a better life and for those around her has kept her motivated to continue harvesting thatching grass, which earns her a decent living.

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