Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

23 November 2012

Namibia: Mahango Cookies a Favourite

Demand for traditional food has always been there, but with many locals diverting from the traditional way of living, supply is often a problem. Consumption of traditional foods outside tribal areas, in most cases, does not merit the costs associated with distribution and marketing. But this picture is rapidly changing.

This week the Economist caught up with the Namibia Business Innovation Centre's Business Plan Award Winner, Kennedy Shindodi. He matriculated in 2009 and studied Bond Markets and Stock Trading in Canada.

22-year old Shindodi hails from Ongwediva and has become the talk of the market with his latest traditional food brands, Okuku Local Products under the umbrella company, Brain-Child Technologies.

Okuku Local Products has taken the market by storm in the short time since its launch. One of its key products, is a mahangu cake called Oshikwila. It is Shindodi's intention to have this very popular item on shop shelves throughout the year, to overcome the seasonal consumption cycle associated with many mahangu products.

Oshikwila is an Oshivambo traditional cake already available in local restaurants and is set to hit local retailers sooner than expected because of the positive response from people of all backgrounds.

A foreigner seen tasting the cake at Tornado, Wernhil, said that it is very unique and unlike anything she has ever tasted before. "What makes it even better is that it caters to vegetarians as it has no meat additives in it."

An enthusiastic Shindodi said that the product is doing well so far, "the products are liked, it is already known especially by the Namibians and there is a demand for it. All that we have to do is avail these products to the people."

The concept has the ability to employ a whole village as it will require a lot of human capital and at the same time add value to Namibian food.

"This whole idea is unique as it can employ up to 50 women in poverty stricken communities in the North as we have plans to expand the idea to bring on board many other traditional food stuff. He said that they will soon be making marula juice early next year and will need people to collect the fruits from the trees. "For that we will need a community to work together and earn a living. The concept will involve and enhance community livelihoods and also help brand proudly-Namibian products." hindodi said when the harvesting season starts in February, people in a certain community will be approached and trained on safety and hygiene and will start picking marula fruits. "Since the fruits and vegetables come one after the other, this means that people will be employed almost throughout the whole year. These people will work throughout the different seasons as each season provides its own fruit or vegetable until the end of the cycle by December. At that point, the seeds of the marula will be pounded and turned into a traditional protein-rich oil called "onjove," or marula oil.

He said that if current negotiations go well, the marula oil will be exported.

But Shindodi also has his eyes on the makalane fruit. He wants to conduct experiments to establish the fruit's suitability to produce spirits.

Currently he is is sourcing raw material from a village in Uukwambi. Shindodi said that they will buy organic food such as beans from farmers that have a surplus and provide the transport to be freighted to Ondangwa and then to the respective destinations. Although the company is set to provide a whole range of products from wild spinach, fresh beans, mopane worms, nuts and mahangu amongst other, the Oshikwila is already available at restaurants such as the Parliament Cafe and Tornado, Wernhill. The cake will also hit local supermarkets' shelves as soon as talks are in the pipeline with Pick 'n Pay as well as Spar.

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