The much applauded Government Food Bank initiative that aims to reduce hunger has received criticism from opposition parties and analysts who see it as a quick catalyst for a national problem that should have a longer term solution
Speaking to The Villager, opposition leaders raised concerns on the complexity, lack of equity and financial implications a large project such as the food bank would have on the country. The food bank resorts under the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare and distributes food parcels to impoverished households. McHenry Venaani, President of the official opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia (DTA of Namibia), said that the initiative is very likely to fail if proper planning is not done.
“The President should be noted for implementing such a great step towards reducing poverty. However, we cannot turn a blind eye on the cost implications that are likely to come with this project. Will the country be able to succumb enough money to provide food for the 500 000 people who are faced with hunger? The process must also be equitable, you cannot be piloting in only two constituencies. I would suggest that piloting takes place in at least three constituencies in each of the 14 regions. That way the accurate measurement of success will be recorded,” Venaani said.
The pilot period of the food bank aims at proving food parcels to about 5 816 households in only two of Windhoek’s constituencies. Sharing the sentiments of Venaani, Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) Secretary General, Mike Kavekotora, said that the food bank is just one of the many government projects that lack proper planning.
“Although I must say that this is very good initiative, the food bank does not properly define who the needy people are. There is no guarantee that the people who are really in need of this food will get it. Proper planning should have been done, because if the beneficiaries of food bank are not really the needy people, there will be hunger reduction taking place. If abused, the opportune cost of the food bank will be very high,” Kavekotora said.
“The fact that there are poor and hungry people in the country cannot be denied, thus initiatives such as the food bank are great.” This was said by United Democratic Front of Namibia (UDF) Vice President Dudu Murorua. Murorua, who suggested that distributing food coupons will be a more viable option as it reduces cost implications.
“Government should reach an agreement with grocery shop owners and establish food vouchers which can be used by the hungry people in the country. Food bank is a very costly project looking at the fact that staff members have to be employed, increasing the number of civil servants. An institution has to be established, in fact, the recurrent costs of establishing the food bank will be much higher and in such way contradict the initial aim of the food bank,” Murorua said.
Political Analyst Dr. Hoze Riruako opinionated that the food bank’s priorities should be the elderly, people with disabilities, Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC’s).
“The piloting period in Windhoek is going to be in close proximity of the central government which will allow for government to make better adjustments. However, the food bank is not going to be a strategy that will last forever, therefore government should come up with an exit strategy for the project. Evidently, the food bank will also have a big knock on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Adding different elements to the current approach of the food bank, such as aligning with parastatals and private companies should come on board; fast food restaurants and grocery shops must also be brought on board. There are huge amounts of food going to waste in those places. Generally, I am a bit optimistic with caution,” Riruako said.
The recently concluded 2016/17 Namibia Rural Food Security and Livelihood Vulnerability Assessment shows that it will cost N$308 million to provide sufficient food aid to the more than half a million Namibians.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila this week said that the government estimated that N$659 million was needed to provide adequate food, water, crop and livestock support to the hardest hit communities, including N$242 million for water intervention, N$308 million for food aid, and the rest earmarked for logistics and milling.