New Era (Windhoek)

14 January 2013

Namibia: Another Pro-Poor Scheme Mooted

Windhoek — Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob has proposed to establish a food bank through which affluent and middle-income members of society could donate food.

The donated food will cater for the basic needs of impoverished Namibians, many of whom collect food at unhygienic dumpsites across the country.

The Prime Minister was commenting on the level of poverty and hunger in his meeting with the outgoing Brazilian Ambassador, José Vicente Lessa, last Friday.

Geingob said Namibia wants to copy the Brazilian example of dealing with poverty and has assigned someone to carry out a study of the Brazilian social welfare system to find ways of dealing with the problem.

The Prime Minister now has in mind a proposal that will bring together farmers, including himself, as well as fishing companies to voluntarily donate at least two cows or any other food items per year or per quarter, so that they can set up a food bank with the donations.

Geingob said that during his recent drive around Katutura, in Windhoek, he observed the abject poverty of many Namibians and is disappointed that many people are just sitting idle, not doing anything at all,

"You cannot believe the face of poverty and hunger in the Katutura's of Namibia," he commented.

The main purpose of the food bank will be to alleviate hunger and provide for the basic needs of vulnerable people by soliciting, collecting and packaging food, clothes, educational materials and other basic necessities for needy people. "The biggest problem is not only unemployment, but poverty and hunger in the midst of plenty," Geingob said.

He however did not want to divulge much until he is done with a proper proposal and study on how to deal with the issue.

Geingob said professionals would manage the food bank, while small and medium-size enterprises would be hired to distribute the food to avoid wastage whereby food goes rotten due to a lack of proper management. He said it is the responsibility of everyone to address poverty. "If anyone wants to address poverty, they should be welcomed," he responded when asked about the Basic Income Grant (BIG).

With regard to BIG, Geingob said the concept should be restructured in a different form, so that only the poor and needy benefit from such a scheme, if it is ever officially introduced.

The proposed BIG is a monthly cash grant of not less than N$100 to be paid to every Namibian as a right. Every Namibian would receive such a grant until the pensionable age of 60, from when individuals will be eligible for the existing old age pension.

The Prime Minister further said the answer to unemployment, hunger and poverty is value addition to Namibia's abundant raw materials.

Currently, most of the country's wealth is exported in their raw and unprocessed form to other countries, where they are processed and sometimes exported as finished products back to Namibia.

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