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ONHELEIWA RICE PROJECT CAUSES UPROAR

By: Frans Sinengela

A proposed rice project at Onheleiwa in Omusati has sparked commotion among community members in the area.

This comes as a group of young people under an organisation called Namibian People Against Poverty approached the chief headman of the Onheleiwa village for a pan which they deem a potential spot for their rice project.

This then sparked a standoff among the community members of the Onheleiwa area.

Some community members are against the move, calling it an “unlawful act”, which according to them, will deprive them of access to the Omulimbalimba pan’s vast grazing area.

The outcry against turning the Omulimbalimba pan into a rice farm reached Eagle FM’s airwaves in February this year, with many callers from Onheleiwa and the surrounding areas calling for a halt to the rice project currently in the making.

Onheleiwa is in Etai constituency of the Omusati region with the chief headman Shatipamba YaNangolo, having other sub-headmen leading several sub-villages under him.

However, the contention for the pan wages on. Some community members have accused the project head, Fredrick Tangi Haixwa, of starting another project that allegedly ended up in the hands of the Chinese.

“He called for a malaria awareness meeting, and while we were in the meeting, he started talking about the rice project. What is the link between rice and Malaria? That is why we say he is a liar and cannot be allowed to go ahead with this so-called project of his,” a community member who asked not to be identified said.

The community member said Haixwastarted a farm in Otavi under the pretext of a youth project and ended up giving the project to a group of Chinese farmers.

“If he could do that in Otavi, it means he can do the same also here; starting something pretending that it is a community project and we will see it in the hands of the Chinese,” they further said.

Another community member from the area who also chose to remain anonymous said Onheleiwa’s Omulimbalimba pan is a community pan and should not be in the hands of individual people for self-enrichment.

“It is a shared grazing area. Where will our animals graze?” they said.

However, some community members told The Villager that they are not against the project as such, but against how the pan was acquired, accusing the chief headman Shatipamba YaNangolo of lack of transparency in the matter.

Reached for comment, Haixwa, the proposed rice project leader, denied that he has given the Otavi farm in the hands of some Chinese farmers, as alleged by the community.

Fredrick told The Villager that the two Chinese men at the farm came from his request for assistance in farming skills from the Chinese embassy.

“These Chinese men are knowledgeable in agriculture, and they are here to help us so that our farm may not fail like many other farms in the country that have failed due to lack of farming skills,” he said.

Commenting on the Omulimbalimba pan, Fredrick said he followed all procedures to acquire the pan in question.

“We went to the Chief headman of Onheleiwa. Our organisation is well-known country-wide. We do community development projects in all 14 regions of the country. Onheleiwa is just one of those,” he further said.

After consultations with the village’s senior headman, he said he was given three hectares to start with the project. According to him, all village headmen are happy with the project, and the agriculture ministry also confirmed that the soil thereof was very good for the project.

However, because of the outcry against the project from among some community members, Oukwanyama traditional authority, this month, sent two officials to the pan to assess the situation and report back.

The traditional authority will communicate the findings and decisions concerning the matter to the community after a meeting on 28 April.

When approached for comment, the Onheleiwa chief headman told The Villager that it was not yet the right time for him to talk to the media concerning this matter.

“When our right time to talk comes, we will let you know,” he said.

Julia Heita

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