Tree Project Might See Funds Vanish

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By William J. Mbangula ONANKALI The Community Trust, a non-profit organisation, may consider terminating some of the crucial programmes it is managing if financial assistance from its traditional sponsor Africa Group of Sweden (AGS) ceases by the end of the year. The project, a winner of the First Prize Best Horticul-turalAgricultural Exhibitor in 2005 at the Ongwediva Annual Trade Fair (OATF), has been receiving financial assistance from the Africa Group of Sweden since its inception in 1992. Founded by the Directorate of Forestry and known then as Onankali Nursery, the project was informed recently that the financial assistance from the Swedish NGO will end this year with the last contribution of 100 000 Swedish kronor (Skr 100 000). Its aims and objectives amongst many others are to: – promote community driven self-help schemes aimed at creating income-generating activities by using locally available resources in a sustainable manner; – create environmental awareness in the community; – train persons in gardening and crafts production. Amongst its board of director members are the Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Aino Dumeni, Michael Kalunduka (chairperson) Veronica Nghishidimbwa, Moses Shikongo Anneli Shishome and John Nekwaya. During the past 14 years, the project, which has employed five Namibians and one Swedish national, has made its mark in the forestry development efforts, environmental awareness, gardening and crafts production. About 100 schools in the north benefited from the basic tree planting workshops conducted by the project. In 2002 the project received a request from the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to get involved in the reforestation campaign of the grassland semi-desert area of Ombuga where the project took two plots under its control. Each of the plot of four hectares each at Omugulugwonime (Omuntele constituency) and Onyome (Omuntele constituency) has 1600 trees. Other plots of 16 blocks each planted with different trees were given to the people to run with a community mobiliser to lead them. One of the key days in the promotion of tree-planting programmes is the Arbor Day. Then there are what is locally called Days of the Trees when a day is selected for the purpose of promoting a particular tree on that specific day. Tree plants are always made to be cheap on such specific days. As part of the service to the people and as an environment and health awareness campaign , Onankali Community Trust, an affiliate of the Northern Namibia Forestry Committee (NNFC), has trained community members on how to construct thatched huts with empty bottles. Some of these works have resulted in many tangible structures still being used for the purpose of educational development. Two such examples are the construction of libraries at Epandulo Combined School in Omuthiya Constituency and Iikokola combined school in Onayena constituency. Concerning health issues, the project went out of its way to provide counselling to HIVAids sufferers and also sending some of them for further training. Such training was conducted at Ondangwa and Eenhana by Lifeline Namibia. With regard to counselling, it’s now been shifted to Onankali clinic to ensure maximum participation of the beneficiaries. Besides the project, it is still involved with the HIVAids campaign by providing shelter to volunteers of the Total Control Epidemic (TCE) who are using the project centre as an operational base for the community work in and around Onankali. The location of the centre and its image in the community have created a sense of confidence and trust which prompted some of the community members to appoint it as their marketing agency lobby for potential local and foreign buyers. Some of the community projects are Ohandje crafts group, which always brings its products for marketing both locally and abroad through contact with tourists. Another one is the Oontanga factory that is dealing in lotion and cooking oil using watermelon seeds and other traditional nuts. Being a centre of attraction, arrangements with the Ministry of Education is also underway to bring literacy programmes nearer to the people. Until the year 2000, the project was run by Swedish volunteers but was taken over by a Namibian since then .The first and current Namibian project manager Emmanuel Amukwaya confirmed the bleak financial future the project is facing but he was confident that alternative arrangements will be made to secure the future of the project. One option is to plead with the AGS to continue supporting the project: presently the project has a proposal outstanding with the AGS for it to extend its assistance. Another option is to form a partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF). In fact there are discussions going on at the moment to form a joint venture with the Government through the MAFW. Amukwaya, who has been employed by the project since 1999, said if the financial position of the project does not change, the project will be forced to drop some of the crucial programmes such as the HIVAids counselling service and the Ombuga reforestation campaign which was due to end in 2008. Another arrangement is to consolidate and diversify the current and envisaged self-supporting sources of income. Cell phones are another option being used to get additional income. Members of the community are assisted to make their calls and are being charged a nominal fee. Other measures are to sell trees, wire craft and chilli-mix more frequently than in the past. Most of the staff who are experienced in cooking at the centre were trained at the Ongwediva based Rural Development Centre (RDC). They are also prepared to offer training for a minimal fee as part of their income-generating efforts. The project has also two sewing machines, which can still be used to generate income for it. Very soon the project will also embark on a scheme of renting out chairs and tables for use at weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies and other important events in the community. Approached for comment, Board Chairperson Kalunduka told New Era that the project is still waiting to get feedback from its traditional sponsor, the Africa Group of Sweden while at the same time is negotiating with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to form a private partnership. ” We have adopted a wait-and-see attitude,” he noted. Headquartered on a portion of land measuring one hectare, the project is a hive of activity and a centre of attraction when it comes to trees and vegetables. So far there are more than 7 000 trees, amongst them the marula, grape, flamboyant, guava, melia, sausage, cotton, wild date palm, date, pepper bush, goose berry, oleander, jacaranda, tamarind, camel thorn, baobab, weping, bird plum, cotton, chilli, moringa, granadilla and mopane.

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