Despite Rains, San Face Starvation

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By Petronella Sibeene GROOTFONTEIN Around 60 San people residing at a resettlement Farm Juliana, 75 kilometres northeast of Grootfontein, face a serious situation of hunger. The heavy rains received in most parts of the country have worsened their plight because this community, heavily reliant on charcoal, their main source of income, cannot go to work because of wet conditions. Leader of the group, Gerson Kavari, says the people at the farm have no jobs apart from burning wood for charcoal, currently not easy given the rain.. “Survival is difficult. Before the rains started, people could make charcoal and sell a ton for N$300 but now, it’s not easy. People are starving, even going for a week without food,” he told New Era. The affected community, according to Kavari, migrated from the Mangetti in 2004 after another San, Stephanus Ndamona, was resettled at the farm. “We are here under him. He allowed us to stay here since 2004. But most of the people are out in search of jobs on neighbouring farms,” he narrated. One of the affected community members, Joseph Munango, lamented that the hunger problem has reached its peak and there is fear that if no help is received, the situation could degenerate into a calamity. In the past few months, the families have been able to survive through the selling of free-ranging traditional chickens and by harvesting edible worms from trees. One full-grown chicken is sold for between N$20 and N$25. “From that, we usually buy mealie-meal and make thin porridge. Other than that, we collect some green leaves from the field and boil them, eaten like any other vegetable,” he said. Stating that he only has enough mealie-meal to last for a day, Munango said most people at the farm are now living a life of uncertainty. The Senior Chief Control Officer from the Otjozondjupa Regional Council, Tiranus Tshishome, expressed ignorance about this group of people but stated that the matter would be followed up with the urgency it deserves. He told New Era that though the Emergency Management Unit (EMU) Desk is responsible for food distribution countrywide, the council managed to distribute food towards the end of last year. About 2 700 bags of mealie-meal and cooking oil were distributed to the San people of the Tsumkwe, Mangetti and Matako areas. “My office is not aware of these people but will do a follow-up,” he promised. Though help is rendered to these vulnerable communities in the Otjozondjupa Region and beyond, Tshishome indicated that the support is insufficient. Food assistance to these people was supposed to be on a monthly basis but due to financial constraints, it (assistance) comes only when funds are available. Last month, the area’s regional council managed to distribute 1 250 bags to the San at Tsumkwe which has a household population of 973. The area has a total beneficiary figure of 5 688. “People are starving to an extent of eating worms,” confirmed Tshishome. The Early Warning, Monitoring and Risk Management Officer from EMU Timothy Shixungileni acknowledged the financial problem, adding, “We are doing what we can. We will continue to motivate stakeholders to assist as we strive to support their (San) needs. We will make sure that no one dies from hunger.” However, he could not indicate when the next distribution will take place. Meanwhile, the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS) this week visited the farm and distributed 10 kilograms x 10 bags of treated fast maturing maize seeds, 10 kilograms D Compound fertilizer and 10 kilograms of pumpkin, tomatoes and carrot seeds. Christiaan Innimerth, NRCS Disaster Risk Reduction Manager was certain that once the seeds are planted, the harvests would definitely be positive. He says the seeds are more than enough, such that half of the given quantity could be stored for next year. “One bag of maize seed can produce food that would feed 150 people,” he said.