By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
Okuhonahona means literally “slowly but surely”. Extended it fully reads “Okuhonahona ookukavaza”, meaning if you move slowly but surely you will get to your destination. It has been the hope of Beliam Tuneeko to slowly but surely get there. He is a beneficiary and participant in an Ongendo Development Trust (ODT) revolving project in animal husbandry and names his engagement in this regard Okuhonahona.
Under this revolving project, farmers receive animals to kick-start them and once they are on course and have multiplied them to a certain number, they are expected to plough some back into the revolving pool where they are passed on to the next group of beginner beneficiaries/participants.
However, Tuneeko is already finding the going discouraging, if not tough.
And the problem is water, water and water. Water is not deliberately repeated here but at every turn Tuneeko cannot but point out how lack of water, a supposed earthly gift from God to all and sundry, is today such an expensive commodity even surpassing oil. This is despite the fact that water is supposed to be the source of life, and a basic commodity that should be available to all and sundry very cheaply if not for free.
Realising that one cannot live by animal husbandry alone, he combined the nine goats he received to start with, with poultry and gardening. However, lack of water or the unavailability thereof proper because of its expensiveness, seems to be dampening his farming vigour and entrepreneurship. His diversification endeavour in terms of a small backyard land for the cultivation of maize, cabbage and carrots, among others, has already been aborted and abandoned mid-tillage because he cannot afford water. Sadly, he is soldiering on on his small estate about 4 km from the village of Otjinene with husbanding goats and poultry. Initially starting off in Otjinene proper he shifted a distance outside the village in view of its urbanite leaning and the danger littering here holds for animals.
In this age of skyrocketing food prices he thought cultivating one or two vegetables would greatly reduce the burden of the cost of living on his meagre salary as a cook at one of the local primary schools. But this is not to be and the problem is water. Being a beginner in the business of animal rearing, although culturally not a stranger to it, he had no illusion that he was far from reaching a point where hunger is not a constant companion. Hence the gardening project to at least provide for his family.
Apart from his unemployed wife and his ailing sister who needs periodic medical treatment that she can only receive in Gobabis, Tuneeko has, on his pitiful income, to struggle to get four children (Grades 10, 8, 4 and 1) through school. Including himself he caters for a family of nine. That is why he thought it apt to supplant his strenuous food budget by own efforts through the garden.
But NamWater would not let him. The bill for water for own consumption, for animal consumption and for watering his cultivation would have been enormously pressing on his income. Not while it’s long before his goat rearing project reaches a stage where it pays for itself with a little leftover for other expenses. Not only would the cultivation project have been of much help in providing food but also in terms of providing fodder for both the goats and his chickens.
“Water, water, pure water from the tap and of God. The Government must start thinking of drilling boreholes to give us water. Or donors,” he pleads.
Not that the smallholding outside Otjinene has been the best land option.
Efforts at resettlement have gone unanswered, not to mention any feedback on why their applications at resettlement have not been successful in order for them to be wise in future bids. “We don’t know what now?” he asks, wailing. More than anything else Tuneeko is saddened by the fact that he is not disabled, yet the high price of water has been disabling him. He would much want to push forward with his combined project of goat husbandry and gardening but water has been inhibitive.
“Thinking of the gardening project as a necessary boost NamWater water did just that and dried up because of the exorbitant cost of water. Water? Has anything ever been contemplated about water? We have a big problem with the high cost of water. It is reaching the same high price as petrol.”
He says they pay N$6.97 per cubic litre. Currently he spends about N$140 per month on water. This is minus water for cultivation, an endeavour he has meantime been forced to let go because of the high cost of water. Plus the use of water for watering his cultivation his water bill used to reach about N$240 a month. That may sound a negligible amount but not for a cook that Tuneeko is without any other additional income and with as big a family as his.
“How can the Government help? Water can alleviate hunger because one can cultivate land with water. But without water one can neither breed animals nor cultivate land. How can we live then?” Even driving his goat rearing project into a viable project “water, water, water” is a constant nagging if not derailing and sabotaging factor. “Perhaps one would understand in the case of oil that comes from other countries but water?” he muses about the expensiveness of water.
“If I had water I would not have been suffering from hunger because I am not disabled and can use my hands to work but the problem is water,” for the umpteenth time Tuneeko repeats his dismay and disappointment with the high price of water. His poultry project is equally only beginning and he once again makes the necessary link between this project, the cultivation project and animal husbandry.
“The chickens need to eat something and this can come only from the garden which again needs water and it is back to square one,” he moves towards winding up reiterating once again his appeal to the Government and donor agencies to start thinking about the precarious water situation that he and colleagues face.