By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Karas region is set to change its poverty situation, where thousands of its residents live not only below the breadline but also without toilets, despite it hosting a range of important resources in the country. It has submitted a proposal to the Millennium Challenge Account, which if approved will see the region’s inhabitants generate income to improve the household food security and nutrition, small-scale farming as well as human waste disposal in a hygienic manner. An assessment conducted by the region in collaboration with its Food Security and Nutrition Development Programs identified the production of dates and horticulture crops, small livestock, poultry and ostriches, promotion of the Hoodia plant and construction of toilets as main priorities. The region has strong mining deposits of diamonds and copper, zinc and lead and has the hoodia plant in abundance, as well as the Kudu gas field, which if developed will solve the country’s power problems. Despite this, the Karas Regional Coordinator on Food Security and Nutrition pro-gramme, Mark Mulenga says there are no industries in the region to employ people, resul-ting in over 9 000 people being unemployed. Apart from those that are employed in the commercial farming, ostrich farming, fishing, tourism, government and municipal services, finance and banking, construction and manufacturing sectors, some women live on commercial sex work, and the elderly survive on pension payouts. Having a clear idea of the nature of poverty in the region, Mulenga said that the region is set to correct the situation once the proposal is approved. The proposal, which was made through the National Planning Commission, aims at providing 15 water points, goats and sheep to 200 farmers, 15 communal gardens of fruit and vegetables and also 4 828 toilets at a cost of N$12,9 million. Due to low rainfall, the proposal says the region is not suited for crop and pasture production and the only way the small-scale farmers can increase their agricultural production is through the provision of irrigation water by drilling boreholes, and laying pipes from the water points to pastures and fruit and vegetable gardens as well as grazing areas. The project will involve the laying out of 15 irrigation water systems and training of 200 small-scale farmers in water management and irrigation technology within a period of three years. Goat and sheep farming, which is another component in the project, aims at generating income to improve household food nutrition through goat and sheep farming, which has a high return cost. Small stock farming has evolved over many centuries but an increase in production is necessitated by the fact that many unemployed should be encouraged to start small stock production as a self-employment strategy. “From a historical point of view, sheep and goat farming is a viable social and economic enterprise, which will enable those who do not have any livestock to produce their own meat for consumption as well as for sale to raise money for basic needs,” the proposal says. Through the fruit and vegetable component, the region aims at establishing 15 vegetable production units of five hectares each to produce a variety of crops such as date palms, grapes, citrus fruits, watermelons, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and onions. The proposal notes that rural communities do not consume as much fruit in their diets thereby denying their bodies crucial vitamins required for proper body functions. Apart from this, a lot of income can be derived from fruits and vegetables compared to cereals. As far as sanitation is concerned, 26 percent of all households in the region still use bush toilets, while another 7 percent use the bucket toilet system. The council wants to provide 4 828 ventilated improved pit latrines and 60 public flush toilets to cater for the needs of the households that still use the bush or bucket toilet in the region.
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