‘Follow the water’: Worsening drought dries up housing for rural Namibians

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When Pedro Dhila left his homestead in northern Namibia one 12 months in the past to hunt greener pastures within the nation’s capital, he meant it each actually and figuratively.

A boy rides his bike in a Namibian neighborhood. Picture: VCG

Dhila hoped Windhoek would maintain higher alternatives after worsening drought within the Omusati area decimated his crops and almost 30 of his cows.

However as soon as he arrived within the Okuryangava slum, he confronted a brand new set of issues: overcrowding, crime and poor sanitation.

“It is extremely painful to reside right here the place respectable land and housing is difficult to search out. We will not farm,” stated 37-year-old Dhila, sitting exterior his good friend’s corrugated iron shack.

“I can consider 30 different households who left Omusati due to drought,” he informed Reuters.

As rural Namibians transfer to cities to flee the worst drought in almost a century, many discover themselves navigating a no-man’s-land between oversaturated slums and the parched farmland they hope to at some point return to, say activists and support officers.

In 2015, almost half of all Namibians lived in city areas and that quantity is predicted to succeed in 60 % in 2030, in line with Sweden’s Lund College – whereas the UN estimates almost 70 % of the world’s inhabitants will reside in cities by 2050.

In 2019, Namibian President Hage Geingob declared a state of emergency attributable to drought situations, with 5 out of the earlier six years experiencing low rainfall, in line with the United Nations. And in January, the southern African desert nation moved nearer to famine after dam ranges fell under 20 %, a drop official blames on local weather change and extended drought.

In consequence, households are “following the water,” stated Bernadette Bock, secretary basic of the Namibia Purple Cross Society.

Many find yourself in makeshift homes in casual settlements in Windhoek, Bock added from her workplace in Katutura, a neighborhood made up of a number of settlements within the capital.

An off-the-cuff settlement is described by the United Nations as unplanned, unauthorized residential housing models to which the occupants haven’t any authorized declare.

Based on Namibia’s statistics company, in 2016 – the latest information obtainable – greater than 1 / 4 of city and rural households had been labeled as “improvised housing models” or shacks, up from 16 % 5 years earlier.

Residents of the Okuryangava slum, on the fringes of Katutura, stated new shacks had been being constructed on a weekly – typically day by day – foundation, though official information is scarce.

Well being and security dangers

Katutura and its surrounding settlements are sometimes the primary factors of entry for Namibians who cannot afford to reside within the capital’s suburbs or inside metropolis, Dhila defined. However as soon as the households arrive, they face well being and security dangers like illness outbreaks and robberies, in addition to worry of eviction if their houses have been constructed illegally, he added.

Katutura was initially a relocation web site for evicted Namibians beneath South African colonization within the 1960s – its identify means “the place the place folks don’t wish to reside” within the native Herero language.

Dhila, a retrenched accountant and subsistence farmer, shook his head as he remembered his 45 hectares of maize, tomatoes and spinach drying up and the gradual loss of life of his cattle.

Namibia’s cupboard has pledged about $29 million to alleviate drought prior to now 12 months, though Dhila stated he has but to obtain any help.

“I hope for assist for communal farmers akin to seeds, boreholes and livestock feeding. [Then we could] return to our farms,” stated the daddy of 4.

Till then, he and his household stay within the slum, the place he stated they share one faucet and one rest room with 120 different households – a determine confirmed by the Purple Cross.

In January 2019, President Geingob declared the nation’s casual settlements a “human catastrophe” for his or her dwelling situations.

Bock described how the Purple Cross arrived within the Kunene area, about 580 kilometers northwest of Windhoek, solely to search out total villages empty after residents had deserted their houses to move to town in quest of working water pumps.

The crew needed to drive 30 kilometers to search out the village, nearer to a hand pump with higher water provide.

“We’re seeing local weather change on daily basis. It’s actual,” stated Edmund Khoaseb, communications coordinator with the Purple Cross.

“And the international locations feeling it usually are not those liable for the carbon emissions.”

‘We’re uprooted’

Katutura, made up of 5 totally different suburbs, is residence to greater than 5 % of Namibia’s inhabitants, in line with the latest authorities statistics.

Because the slums in and across the space proceed to develop, competitors for land grows, intensifying calls for on town for housing, security and sanitation.

Windhoek’s mayor Fransina Kahungu moved her workplace from town heart to the Babylon slum in January to “stability the way in which we offer companies to all residents,” she informed Reuters over WhatsApp.

The town’s spokeswoman, Lydia Amutenya, stated that in March Windhoek will start rolling out the Versatile Land Tenure System.

This system will assign all casual settlements within the nation short-term safety of tenure to guard residents from eviction, she stated in emailed feedback.

“Our interventions are aimed toward turning the tables in favor of our residents and their much-needed primary facilities,” stated Kahungu. However residents are skeptical that a lot will change, particularly with housing challenges compounded by dwindling water reserves.

Rosa Namises, a veteran land and gender activist, was the primary lady elected chief of the native Khomani San indigenous group in 2018, representing an estimated 4,000 folks.

The Khomanin had been moved from their ancestral land throughout the Khomas area throughout South African colonization, she defined, with some resettled to surrounding farms in 1991 by the federal government after Namibia’s independence.

“However farming is difficult with restricted entry to water,” stated Namises, 62, sitting in a Katutura neighborhood heart that she established in 1999 to help susceptible neighborhood members – together with many Khomanin – dwelling within the space.

The town additionally comes with its personal challenges, residents stated. 

“Katutura will not be a spot the place we’ll discover a life. We’re uprooted. We are going to by no means be totally settled right here,” stated Namises.

Newspaper headline: Thirst for residence

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