Former Nomads Record Good Harvest

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The good rains received in most parts of the country over the last rainy season have left at least 30 percent of the San people in Tsumkwe area self-reliant as far as food security is concerned. Yesterday, the Namibia Red Cross Disaster Manager Christiaan Wimmerth confirmed to New Era that at least 30 percent of the 700 households that received seeds from the humanitarian organization have reported a bumper harvest. In February this year, the organisation initiated a scheme in which the San people and other vulnerable groups received maize and vegetable seeds. Communities targeted for this assistance worth thousands of tonnes of seeds were those in the north-eastern parts of the country. The organisation distributed eight metric tonnes of hybrid maize seeds, 60 kilograms of pumpkin, tomato and cabbage seeds as well as 40 tonnes of ammonium nitrate and Compound D fertilizer. Though these seeds were distributed late to ensure that the crops mature before the season ends, Wimmerth confirmed that 210 out of 700 families harvested maize while the remaining yielded vegetables. Following advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry on chances for the villagers to harvest crops, the seeds were distributed as they stood a better chance of maturing given the early-maturing variety. Though the assurance that the seeds stood a high chance to mature within the remaining rainy period, one percent of the San families reserved their seeds for the 2006/2007 planting season. According to Wimmerth, the Namibia Red Cross is in the process of procuring seeds for the next season. “We will try to distribute the seeds by mid-October. We will also make sure that by then these communities have cleared their fields and are ready for the coming farming season,” he said. He added that this time communities are urged to plan in advance to ensure a bumper harvest to secure their food status for the following year. Ten volunteers have already been identified to train the San people in Tsumkwe in farming skills east and west. “San people were never farmers. Now that they can no longer hunt, we want to ensure that we give them the basic farming skills to lessen or stop the dependency on government for food,” said the disaster manager. San people were generally defined as hunters and gatherers. They lived in small family groups and moved about the land in search of food sources. In recent years, many San begun to settle in larger groups around water sources, and many have also settled in the communities of their neighbours. Hit by the economic hardship, the San in the Tsumkwe area are heavily reliant on charcoal burning, their main source of income. Given the wet conditions during the rainy season, almost the entire population is often subjected to hunger due to limited sources of income. Gerson Kavari, a San from the Grootfontein area, says the people have no jobs apart from burning wood for charcoal and during the rainy season survival is difficult.