Breaking from the Poverty Trap

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK With over 60 percent of Namibians living below the poverty line, the time has come for all Namibians to come up with programmes and projects that could pull them out of poverty and unemployment. This was said by the Director-General of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Helmut Angula, when he addressed over 80 traditional leaders and senior councillors at the ongoing 9th Annual Meeting of the Council of Traditional Leaders in the capital. “We must all be involved in poverty eradication and people must stop over-indulging themselves in alcohol,” said Angula. Highlighting the issue on ‘Poverty Eradication and Government Development Projects in the Regions’ he explained the reason why people fall into the growing cycle of poverty is because they lack the human, physical, social and financial capital needed to make a living. For instance, when it comes to drought and floods that affect many Namibians, it turns out that the worst affected are the rural poor. “This is because they lack the assets …Other people who would be able to feed their families fall into transitional poverty,” he said. So far, government has made great strides in addressing this social concern through the ongoing Drought Relief Programme. However, one should bear in mind that this is meant as a short-term strategy for preventing poverty and reeling people out of becoming destitute. At the end of the day this creates a dependency syndrome yet people can learn to become self-reliant in a sustainable way. That is why Angula stressed that it is imperative for traditional leaders to become involved in the proper distribution of drought relief food to disadvantaged communities in their areas. “It is your responsibility to ensure that such help from government is not abused by the mighty, young, energetic and the powerful at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable of our communities,” he elaborated. Thus, the challenge is how all Namibians can embark on interventions that reduce poverty in a more sustainable way so that people do not become dependent on drought relief as a way of livelihood. One way to move into this direction is through assessment and formulating poverty profiles for each and every region in the country using information from the Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) process. Recently, the National Planning Commission had completed three regions on PPA experience, namely, Caprivi, Ohangwena and Omaheke. It was found that special emphasis should still be placed on the San community, the landless, female-headed households and child-headed households. Angula encouraged the need for more poverty-focussed programmes, like for instance capacity-building of institutions working with poor people, such as village development committees. There should also be strong improvement in agricultural extension services. In line with the growing poverty challenge in the country, several traditional leaders yesterday also voiced their concern about contributing factors of floods in the Caprivi and other parts of the country, ongoing veld fires that damage crops and stock theft.