KEETMANSHOOP, 17 SEP (NAMPA) -
//Karas governor, Lucia Basson says she is dismayed by the fact that her region, which is home to the country's largest mining activities, is burdened with a poverty rate of 14,5 per cent.
She says it is especially painful considering that the region is the biggest in the country with a small population, second only to Omaheke.
National Planning Commission of Namibia (NPC) statistics of 2011 show that //Karas has a population of 77 421 people and covers a total land area of 161 086 kilometres, representing almost 20 per cent of Namibia's total land surface.
In contrast - for illustration purposes - Khomas has the highest population of 342 141 people with the lowest poverty rate of 4,6 per cent. Kavango has the highest poverty rate in the country at 53 per cent with a population size of over 220 000.
Speaking at the Consultative Dialogue on Wealth Distribution and Poverty Eradication in Keetmanshoop on Wednesday, Basson said although //Karas is dry, it is endowed with the perennial Orange River along the border with South Africa, Naute Dam and the future Neckartal Dam, offering huge potential for irrigated agriculture.
She said the region's poverty can be eradicated if all its citizens unite and work together.
The governor also called on the mining, fishing and agricultural sectors in the region to invest in infrastructure development, particularly in the health and education sectors.
Specifically, she mentioned the acquisition of ambulances, the construction of clinics and the renovation of hostels. Basson urged the 'haves' of //Karas to share with the 'have nots'.
Deputy Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Priscilla Beukes agreed that each individual could make a difference in the life of another. She said the eradication of poverty required a multi-sectoral approach and encouraged residents to donate whatever they have in excess to a less fortunate neighbour.
Beukes called on the local authorities to already identify an empty space or facility they intend to use as a food bank in the future. She said the food bank is necessary to decrease hunger and to promote nutritional levels.
"We have to start at the bottom where poverty is worse," Beukes said.
The Office of the Prime Minister was in 2012 instructed by Cabinet to constitute a multi-stakeholder taskforce to investigate the possibility of setting up food banks in urban areas.
President Hage Geingob made mention of the idea of a food bank during his maiden State of the Nation address earlier this year, while Windhoek Mayor, Muesee Kazapua in July said the City of Windhoek has already reserved land for the envisaged food bank.
Beukes further asked business people and farmers to assist in poverty alleviation and called an end to infighting among the various structures. "The time for fighting is over. We now have to work together," she said.
Beukes requested Namibians to maintain their human dignity at all times; even in times of hardship. "Being poor does not mean you can't be clean or that your living environment should be unhygienic, look after yourselves," she said.
She said a change in the mind is needed in many communities where alcohol and tombo abuse, drug use, violence and rape are rampant. "It is possible to change the world if we make a few changes," she said.
The various stakeholders at the meeting deliberated on strategies that could assist in the reduction of poverty and redistribution of wealth.
The ideas ranged from tangible suggestions such as toilets for old people, backyard gardens, vocational training facilities, the establishment of a fund and the shutting of shebeens to non-tangible suggestions such as positive thinking and the promotion of morals, religious and cultural values.
The //Karas talk on poverty followed the first national consultation held in Otjiwarongo (for Otjizondjupa) on Monday.
The next event will take place in Mariental (for Hardap) on Friday.