Two unemployed women from Kehemu have turned to sand mining as a way to make money to escape poverty.Sand mining, which is still largely unregulated at Rundu, is the extraction of sand through an open pit or sandpit.Christophine Kapango, 59, and Maria …

Two unemployed women from Kehemu have turned to sand mining as a way to make money to escape poverty.

Sand mining, which is still largely unregulated at Rundu, is the extraction of sand through an open pit or sandpit.

Christophine Kapango, 59, and Maria Mandjoro, 39, who live in informal settlements in the Kavango East town, started to harvest sand in 2015 when they saw growth in the construction sector.

Kapango and Mandjoro, who spoke to Nampa on Sunday, said they tried selling fat cakes for a while but realised they were not making a profit.

“Before sand mining, I used to help out others in their mahangu fields for a mere N.dollars 15, which was not enough to cater for my big family consisting of my husband, five of my own kids and grandchildren,” Kapango said.

The two women wake up as early as 06h00 to dig heaps of sand along the Kavango River which they themselves load onto trucks and sell to their clients, most of whom are brick manufacturers and building contractors who require quality sand for construction.

They said they were aware that digging up the sand is not good for the environment and their health, but they are left with no choice as they must earn a living to feed their families.

“The job requires us to dig as many pits as possible in search of quality sand, however, we do close up the sand pits we dig when we are done,” they explained.

They added that they would rather dig for sand and try to make a decent living rather than sit idle.

Mandjoro said she has five children who do not get financial support from their father, thus sand mining is a lifeline for her.

For a full load of sand on a truck, the women charge N.dollars 250 and for a bakkie load, around N.dollars 200.

According to Mandjoro, the income she generates from sand mining has helped her build a house and set up a running tap for water.

“I even bought myself a television set,” she said.

In a month, the business partners said, they can get around 15 to 20 clients interested in buying sand.

The sandpits they dig are around two metres deep.

Since the two women are unlicensed sand miners and the activity is largely still unregulated, they informed this news agency that the Rundu Town Council (RTC) tried to remove them from the area several times, but they refused to be removed.

RTC Chief Executive Officer, Olavi Nathanael, on Monday said they are “not able to win this battle for now”.

Nathanael said council is still working on its environmental management plan in order to come up with a bylaw that will regulate sand mining activities at the town.

He said their idea is to introduce boom gates to control cars and trucks entering the riverside area and allocate a specific area where licensed sand miners can harvest sand.

“Sand mining is one of the biggest challenges we face in Rundu currently. If you go to the riverside area now, you will find a lot of illegal sand miners grouped in various spots around the river. You can find up to 60 illegal sand miners in total,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nathanael said, because the illegal sand miners cannot work without eating, the trickle-down effect is that many enterprising women from surrounding areas have taken to selling food and drinks at the mining site.

“We have tried to remove the illegal sand miners but they tell us they need to make a living,” the CEO said.

Last year the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism announced that it was in the process of crafting new regulations for sand and gravel mining, following a national outcry against the extraction of sand and gravel being done.

The ministry said these incidents have caused serious destruction to the environment and loss of livelihoods in some communities.

It added that lives have also been lost, especially that of children because of unrehabilitated pits, hence their decision to enforce strict compliance.

Source: The Namibian Press Agency