Government to drop food bank

By Maria Kandjungu

THE Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare wants to get rid of the food bank following a massive public outcry that the programme encourages laziness and over-dependency on government.

Poverty Eradication minister, Doreen Sioka told the National Assembly this week that they intend to drop the food bank project which has so far been rolled out to all 14 regions and has benefitted 10 156 households and 42 081 persons to date.

According to Sioka, her ministry plans to introduce the National Social Protection Policy that aims to build a comprehensive social protection system to address all risks and vulnerability.

Sioka noted that the bill aims to drop the food bank, will address the issue of government dependency and cater to vulnerable community members.

She added that the policy is currently at Cabinet level where the committee responsible for looking into policies and bills is scrutinising it before introducing it in the NA.

“I don’t not want to pre-empt the bill. It is with Cabinet for now and I want to wait until it has gone through before I can speak more about it,” said Sioka.

Otjozondjupa Governor James Uerikua told Confidente that while he is not aware of the specification of the new bill, it is his hope that the bill will look at making the existing project more effective to cover all the people instead of getting rid of it all together.

“The food bank is a critical component that has been assisting vulnerable households in our society. So, I am sure that they are coming up with something that is more effective to cover more people,” he stated.

Walvis Bay Urban Constituency Councillor Knowledge Ipinge stated that all individuals’ have the right to live a life that is far above poverty, however alleviation of poverty requires a holistic approach and should not be looked at from the begging bowl mentality.

He noted that general public office bearers across Walvis Bay have been focused on handouts which are useful for electioneering campaign processes but ultimately do not empower the populace to capacitate them in freeing themselves and their families from poverty.

According to him, this is not a sustainable or effective way to address poverty in the country.

“One of the most important strategies with untapped potential to alleviate poverty amongst our residents is the identification and development of one’s natural gifts and talents. A programme of youth mentorship aimed at assisting in identifying gifts or talents, development and then exposure to the world will go a long way in alleviating poverty,” he stated adding that this programme would require identifying successful individuals in the community who are willing to participate in the mentorship programmes.

“The world of business is presently and in future, being run by technology, and innovation knowledge. Establishment of a technology and innovation hub in our community will bring about new and improved ways of doing things that will assist in the fight against poverty,” Ipinge noted further.

The food bank project is the brainchild of President Hage Geingob which was established in 2013 when Geingob was the country’s Prime Minister. The project kicked off and made major strides in 2016 after he took presidency and it became part of a more comprehensive Harambee Prosperity Plan, which was designed to wage war against hunger and poverty in the country.

It has since been rolled out throughout the country and focuses on needy and vulnerable community members who have difficulty purchasing enough to feed themselves and their households.

At the time of establishment, the food bank intended to mainly cater to the basic needs of impoverished Namibians who survive on expired food items from dumpsites.

The idea was to get a central place in each region where the needy would visit the banks where parcels would be distributed properly.

The project has since evolved to include among other, all households and families who have no permanent income or a well-established and self-sustaining business, whether big or small. Its monthly packages include maize meal, tinned meat and fish, cooking oil, beans, yeast, flour, brown sugar and a bar of soap.

Notwithstanding, a number of people have over the years complained that the project was encouraging over dependency on government by community members. Consequently, there have been calls for a more sustainable initiative to address poverty and hunger.