This, we can ill afford

08 January 2019 | Columns

We are dismayed at the news that no less than 56 orchards, filled to the brim with fruit trees planted as far back as 2003, have been left to die. Trees are a long-term investment and fruit production in Namibia is already dismally low, leaving consumers to pay premium for healthy additions to their trollies. Around 200 people were employed in these orchards and by all accounts, were passionate about the trees, the project and their harvests, which continued to grow. This also brought much-needed revenue to state coffers.

It is postulated by some that the dependency ratio in Namibia is somewhere between eight and ten per wage earner.

Let’s do a sum. We have 200 workers supporting somewhere between 1 600 and 2 000 people. On a project which has proven itself to be viable, albeit under difficult circumstances.

And now, that project has been abandoned and the people left jobless. The trees are dying and the little fruit that they had, was taken by the community.

We can ill afford this kind of failure in Namibia.

With our poverty levels, the massive number of unemployed, in particular in our rural areas, and the hunger this country’s citizens experience, the state orchards were a fantastic project.

Exactly what we needed.

And now, for reasons unknown as the ministry is yet to respond, the project has been abandoned. Literally, left to die.

It boggles the mind.

We can only assume but let us suggest that possibly budget cuts have led the dismissal of the workers. Could the orchards not be handed to the local authorities, or the traditional authorities in the area? Was there truly no one who could be a caretaker for these orchards?

It is much like the chaos with AMTA and mahangu purchases. Promises are made and not kept. While farmers invest and work hard to create bountiful harvests which are then left in storage. From last year. While the people are hungry.

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