By William J. Mbangula OKAKU About 50 villagers here have graduated in the production of mushrooms under the care of the University of Namibia (UNAM) and Zero Emission Research Initiative (ZERI). The occasion was overseen by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Namibia, Professor Lazarus Hangula, and his Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Academic Affairs and Research, Professor Osmund Mwandemele, who is one of the prime movers behind the project which started operations in the community in 2005. Professor Hangula noted in his opening speech that the project had demonstrated the fact that by promoting sustainable utilization of mushroom-farming and other resources such as seaweeds, poverty can be reduced – if not eradicated – on the African continent. It had also demonstrated that Africa’s rich natural endowment holds the key to its home-grown development and for addressing many of the challenges facing the continent. And again, it had shown that the HIV/AIDS pandemic that hangs over the African continent can be successfully overcome and replaced by hope and prosperity through utilization of Africa’s biodiversity such as medicinal mushrooms. The occasion was to have been addressed by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Nickey Iyambo, but instead his speech was delivered by Vicky Naudili, one of his ministry’s officials. The minister commended the establishment of the mushroom production facility at Okaku and Ogongo College of Agriculture as clear testimony of UNAM’s dedication and vision through the ZERI project. Similar projects are to be opened at Henties Bay, Gobabis and Mariental with financial support of N$450ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 over a period of three years from Nedbank. Okaku constituency, with its unemployment rate at 64 percent, has a population of about 20ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000. Of this number, 700 people are expected to benefit from the project by generating close to N$700 a month.