New road threatens women’s livelihoods

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Ohungu Conservancy

About 10 women selling hand-made products to tourists passing through Ohungu Conservancy are worried their business will suffer once construction of the Uis/Khorixas road begins.

The conservancy is located between Uis and Khorixas in the Erongo Region.
The group say although the road will bring about development to the area, their only source of income could be in jeopardy, which would plunge them further into poverty.

They have now appealled to the Roads Authority (RA) and their local councillors to come up with a solution that will prevent them losing their sole source of income. They say their selling point is strategically located and accessible to tourists travelling through the Erongo and Kunene regions.
Speaking to New Era last week , the women said they were already informed by the RA that they would have to move to make way for the planned new road.

Forty-nine-year-old Angela Kapi who has been making a living from selling Herero dolls, jewellery and handbags, among others, said she has managed to feed her family for years from the money she makes.

“I have been selling from this point for the past 11 years and the little I make has sent my children to school and feeds those still living with me. If we move from this place I doubt we will make enough to feed our families,” she said.

According her, they are exposed every day to dust pollution, the harsh sun and are at times surprised by wild elephants that come to drink water from the nearby Ugab River.

“This is what we have to endure. We have to walk kilometres back and forth every day to come sell. On a good day one can make as much as N$400 from tourists, but then on other days you don’t sell a thing,” she explained.
She said they take turns to sell their goods to give each other the opportunity to make a bit of money – so that each one has something to take home every month.

Helena Kahijana-Jaanda says she started selling handmade dolls and other goods from the informal stalls after being struck by the ravaging drought of 2013.

“I was a livestock farmer and used to sustain my family by selling some of my cattle. However, the last drought was severe and my cattle died and I had no choice but to join the women to sell. These days we are so used to this road as it is part of our lives. Whether you don’t want to do it, you have to if you want to put bread on the table. That is why we are worried that the construction of the road will not be favourable for us and our families. We want the government and Roads Authority, as well as our councillors, to come up with an alternative to assist us so that we don’t miss out on our essential income we make by selling next to the road,” further elaborated Kahijana-Jaanda.

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