Retail chains cream off N$15m from Food Bank initiative

Retail chains in the capital have emerged the biggest beneficiaries of the Food Bank initiative meant to combat hunger and eradicate poverty as Government has so far spent close to N$15 million in the past five months for consumables.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare I-Ben Nashandi confirmed this week that the government has spent about N$15 million to purchase and distribute consumables to those in need in the seven constituencies in the Khomas region alone.
He could, however, not give a breakdown on the expenditure per month, saying it is too early for that. Government acquires most of the food for distribution from the capital’s major retail stores.
“I cannot give you a specific figure since we are still at the beginning stage, but what I can say is that so far, we have spent below N$15 million for the last five months for seven constituencies in Khomas region. We started with Khomas region because we realised that the highest level of food poverty is in Khomas,” he said.
President Hage Geingob initiated the food bank strategy in his Harambee Prosperity Plan (HHP) to help in the quest to eradicate poverty in the country.
Nashandi added that the success of the initiative is likely to be achieved if Namibians work together in identifying the people that deserve to benefit from the food bank.
“The project will only be successful if we try and target the people that are supposed to benefit from it. I would also like to urge anyone to come forward if you see that there are people benefiting that do not deserve to benefit from the Food Bank. Any government official who is benefiting it’s considered as stealing and will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
He said that any household earning less than N$400 per month qualifies registration and benefits from the Food Bank.
Nashandi also pointed out dishonesty among the distributors as one of the major challenges faced by the project.
  “To make sure that people do not change the criteria of the Food Bank we will have an assessment by January and if anyone identify any family that has not been targeted by the Food Bank anyone can inform us and we are also planning on visiting the homes of people that have not been registered,” he noted.
The permanent secretary noted that for now it is too early to depend on local producers for food supply but rather depend on food supply from the foreign market.
Future plans
A rather upbeat Nashandi added that the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare is currently busy with long term strategies to make sure that we encourage local farmers to produce food that are sustainable to the local market.
The Food Bank project is expected to be expanded to all 14 political regions of the country depending on its success in the pilot project in Khomas.
Analyst view
Meanwhile, analysts have raised concern on the sustainability of the project saying that the Food Bank can only succeed if the implementation process is set up correctly and working hand in hand with the local supply chain.
Political analyst Hoze Riruako said Government should strike a balance between providing for those in need and creating a dependency syndrome.
 “In the United States of America (USA) the government came up with many initiatives to take care of the low income earners, orphans and unemployed. This created a lazy atmosphere in the USA and the dependency syndrome can only happen if the Food Bank is not properly implemented,” Riruako said.
He suggests that the Ministry responsible for the Food Bank should come up with projects that will assist it to grow.
“If there could be a link between the Food Bank and projects that could assist with the supply of the food, then it will be successful, such as creating local projects that could lead to farmers manufacturing local food products which will mean that the money is invested back in Namibia and create employment,” he said.
Another political analyst Fanuel Kaapama corroborated Niikondo’s comment saying that the Food Bank is a good initiative.
“The Food Bank project can only be sustained if the project works together with local suppliers,” he said.
He suggested that the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare should stay away from supplying food to people that are already getting an income.
“There are people like councillors who are reducing the projects criteria to benefit themselves, which means that the people that are driving the project should be on point for it to be successful and target the right people to benefit,” he said.