Are we losing the war on poverty?

Seven months ago, President Hage Geingob declared his war on poverty. This declaration of war against one of the country’s most biting issues was accompanied by the appointment by the country’s first-ever Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Bishop emeritus Dr Zephania Kameeta.

However, the declaration seems to have been made ages ago. At Geingob’s presidential inauguration, he said “united, we must declare war against poverty and corruption, and teaching our children under trees.

We need input from all the resourceful people in the public, private and agricultural sectors to set up a food bank and eradicate poverty.”

Ideally, his vision and notion was welcomed across the board, and many Namibians with a quest for change had a renewed appetite for growth that finally, a country that has done pretty much everything well to create a platform for growth for its inhabitants, will now take the curse of poverty head-on.

Some of the glaring statistics which are linked to poverty in Namibia show that about 500 000 inhabitants live in povertystricken conditions, and are failing to afford decent accommodation.

The last Household Income and Expenditure Survey also shows that the bulk of the means of production are controlled by an affluent 10% of the population, while the middle-class eke out a difficult living and cannot sustain mortgages to finance houses or motorvehicles.

There are also difficulties in the country dealing with income inequalities, which many analysts attribute to being one of the reasons why the levels of poverty are high.

Last week, proponents of the Basic Income Grant emphasised that there is a serious need for the government to consider dishing out funds through the grant to allow some citizens to afford at least a basic income.

There are also others who believe that poverty could also be extinguished through the creation Are we losing the war on poverty? of a food bank which can subsidise the poor majority’s hunger. The belief is that most people in the country struggle to afford basic foodstuff, including staple diets.

Although the idea has received support from different quarters in society, the challenge has been that it remains an idea, and it does not specify how best the issue of food shortages would be dealt with in the long run.

The situation has also been exacerbated by the fact that there were reports made in the past where citizens were captured scavenging for food at dumpsites.

A simplistic belief is that any amount of handouts to a struggling person will do nothing, except create dependency and laziness. While Government has laid the foundation to tackle the challenges of poverty and hunger, there is a need for realistic strategies which will see the same people struggling from poverty to be able to afford basic food.

Government needs to cultivate energies in driving agriculture in both communal and commercial sectors. Ideally, investments in agriculture will create food self-sustenance for many Namibians, who have been idle and failing to produce for their own families.

Namibia, being an African country, needs to understand that most of the productivity comes from primary industries, and if the country is to weed out the challenges associated with food insufficiency, which is a serious ingredient of poverty, people need to be able to produce.

The Biblical belief is that instead of giving people fish, you ought to teach them how to fish. Ideally, government cultivating agriculture will also go a long way in creating a culture of production and food selfsustenance.

Although very debatable, statistics also show that about 28% of the population lies below the poverty line, while the UNDP’s 2005 Human Development Report indicated that 34.9% of the population lives on $1 per day, and 55.8% live on $2 per day (2010 est.) National estimates of the percentage of the population falling below the poverty line are based on surveys of sub-groups, with the results weighted by the number of people in each group.

The Government instead is tied to trying to come up with an agreeable definition of poverty, President Hage Geingob instead of tackling the root causes of the problem.

While many would want to speculate that the definition of poverty is rather vague, there is a simple notion associated with it. Education needs to be made the core of the future.

The country needs to cultivate the notion of building a knowledgebased society which can drive it towards its own goals.