Food Bank Dilemma

DumpsitepeopleThe state is in a dilemma whether to splash out on a new building, rent existing government offices or turn the Ramatex warehouse into a food bank store.

A N$130 million tender for the construction of a food bank was advertised and seemed ready for awarding, but President Hage Geingob stepped in, via Cabinet, to cancel the contract last week. Geingob said he was disappointed with the exorbitant costs for the construction of the facility. Cabinet was then directed to revisit the construction tender and seek more quotations with a view to obtain reasonable and affordable prices. According to the directive, the poverty eradication ministry was also tasked with exploring affordable building options for the construction of the food bank. 

Food banks are warehouses packed with food which is given to the needy. This bank will be operated by unemployed youth organised into “street committees”. The poverty eradication ministry said it is willing to set up the food bank at Ramatex to cut on construction costs. If this is done, the government could save tens of millions of dollars by using existing state warehouses, instead of splashing money on a new building. Poverty eradication permanent secretary I−Ben Nashandi confirmed to The Namibian yesterday that they are looking at ways of reducing the warehousing costs. 

Nashandi said his ministry is looking at various options to ensure that food is distributed to those in need. “We are willing to use one of the warehouses at Ramatex. We, however, need to take into consideration that the warehouse was not meant for food, but for other purposes. So, we will have to renovate it if we get it,” he noted. In the meantime, Nashandi said the ministry is using the warehouse of the Office of the Prime Minister in Prosperita, south of Windhoek.

“We will be accommodated there for now, but we will need a permanent facility to store the food. We are open to suggestions on how best we can implement the issue of food supply,” he stated. The warehouse was used to store drought relief food. According to Nashandi, the ministry can also look at entering into a rental agreement with the premier’s office for using the warehouse since it is big enough to accommodate food supplies. He said another option open to the ministry is to meet various supermarkets which can store the food stocks in their warehouses. He will meet supermarket representatives this week. 

Nashandi, however, said the ministry will still want to own their own warehouse in future. City of Windhoek spokesperson Joshua Amukugo told The Namibian that the offer to accommodate the poverty eradication ministry at Ramatex is still open. “They already approached us late last year. Our offer is still there,” he stated. The Ramatex warehouse has not had permanent owners for many years now. The city has been in talks to sell the land to an American company, but that deal was later called off after the company failed to pay the requested price.

The Presidency said Geingob has lobbied around 4 000 commercial farmers to donate cattle and other livestock to the food bank. “Many of the farmers sounded out have responded positively to the call of providing livestock on a voluntary basis to the food bank,” State House said, adding that even if only half or a third of the commercial farmers donate one or two head of cattle to the food bank, it will go a long way in addressing the plight of the needy. 

According to the statement, the President will also request the environment ministry to identify game from national parks which could be culled and donated to the food bank, where feasible. “Similarly, the fisheries minister will engage the fishing community to donate some fish to the food bank as part of their corporate social responsibility,” the Presidency said.

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