Food for thought

11 January 2018 | Columns

The food bank initiative was launched amid much pomp and fanfare in 2016 by President Hage Geingob with the pilot study focusing on Windhoek households earning a self-declared income of less than N$400 per person per month. The programme was introduced as part of government’s anti-poverty initiatives and the expectation was that it will be rolled out to other towns in the near future. However after two years, the initiative finds itself beset by a number of challenges, which are threatening its expansion to other regions. The economic crisis, which is being experienced in the country, has put a serious strain on government spending and the food bank initiative is no exception. It will thus not be possible for government to have a central food bank, complemented by a network of regional food banks, in each of the country’s 14 regions given this financial crisis. The Windhoek pilot study has proven to be costly undertaking, already. According to the poverty eradication ministry, nearly N$34.5 million was spent on food parcels handed out in the Khomas Region between April and October 2017. Just like with other forms of poverty, there is a relentless rise of food poverty in our country and interventions such as the food banks may not prove to be the answer given the fact that it is unsustainable. Poverty is a real challenge in our country and perhaps we must start having honest discussions on whether food banks are going to make a difference and be the answer to this never-ending problem. We know that the ministry of poverty eradication is still awaiting a study from the University of Namibia regarding the pilot project and its impact. This is not to devalue or belittle the efforts made by government, but the authorities must be wary of not creating a dependency syndrome. It clearly looks like there was no comprehensive assessment done before embarking on the pilot project. The millions currently spent on food parcels would have been channelled towards sustainable programmes aimed at helping and supplementing the incomes of poor families and individuals to fight poverty. We must rethink this model to ensure a greater impact of growth on poverty reduction.

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