Green Shoots in Tough Times

The rain has blessed Namibia as it hasn’t done in a decade. The dams are full, the antelope families are fat, the trees are full of birds’ nests. There are even lakes in the desert….but although we are all just plain relieved to be free of the drought conditions that have prevailed for far too many years, the absence of the visitors that would bring a much-needed boost to the economy is a sobering reminder that the rest of the world is still stuck in the terrible suspended animation of Covid, 12 months old now.

Our statistics with regard to the medical impacts of the pandemic show that we have been the lucky ones so far, relatively speaking. But the economy was already in extremis before 2020 and the figures for businesses shuttered and people retrenched as coronavirus delivered the coup de grâce are far less salutary.

Many consumers, here and worldwide, pivoted towards purchasing locally sourced products last year – by force of circumstance as borders closed to imports, yet also by choice. But the ‘Good for Namibia’ initiative that was already established – the ‘Sew Good’ project – as well as others that were ready to launch have been victims of the diminishing purchasing power of the nation as every household found itself affected, in one way or another, by the need to scrimp and save for the long haul. The income from the sewing work is still enough to make a difference for the craftswomen, and we have even taken on another producer recently, but our sales have inevitably plateaued.

I continue to admire and celebrate the young Namibians (and a few not-so-young!) who are flexing their entrepreneurial muscles and adapting their business models to the straitened times. As well as those that are moving towards, and embracing, the concept of sustainable use of our precious resources. You only have to spend half an hour on Instagram to see that their hustle is being rewarded.

The creative women of ‘Sew Good’ continue to explore new ideas while waiting for our old markets to revivify. I am still hopeful that at some point too, when hotels begin filling up again, I can launch a long-incubating recycled soap enterprise. Namibia is officially ‘open’ (if you can just jump through a million hoops!) and we look forwards to the time in the not-to-distant future when we can share the bounteous year that nature has gifted us with our international tourist friends, too.

Lightweight safari scarves, each one unique, made by Julia Gomachas of ‘Sew Good’ from upcycled luxury embroidered and sheer fabrics