CONCERNED: Kekgaletswe Rakoi

The scorching sun is beating down on Kekgaletswe Rakoi, as she patiently covers the palm tree trunk with a dry branch.

She is protecting it from drying up before it gives up all the much needed sap into a 750 millilitre bottle hanging on the side.

The bottle has been there for hours and collecting inside it is the white juice, which she will ferment into wine.

She will later sell the wine to other members of Gabamochaa community at a minimal fee, “since the river dried up, we spend most of our times under trees. There is no fish to catch and we survive on the palm tree.”

This is the daily life of Gabamochaa settlement, outside Maun, in the North West District.

The community lives right in the island of the mighty Okavango river. From the palm tree, that borders the river, they derive food, juice and weave baskets with it.

However since the river dried up, last year, the community mainly depend on Botswana government, for financial support.

“Life is hard here. The only money we get is from Ipelegeng (drought relief programme) and old age pension. This is the same money we circulate here to help ourselves and buy food with,” explained another resident, Kgopodiso Maphomo.

The bushes surrounding the river provide firewood and wild fruits for the community, but the fear is that the current draught season may destroy them, “Just like in the 1986 draught, people have begun to leave. They have abandoned their homes to settle in Maun and Shorobe villages because there is not much life here anymore.”

LEFT TO RIGHT: Phuthego Zambo with Kgosi Dichaba Mampomo

The river cuts the settlement into two and during wet season, the community uses boats to cross to the other side.

The terrains in this area are accessible by 4×4 off road wheel vehicles only.

Even the government officers prefers to fly in a chopper when taking pension money to the old folks of Gabamochaa.

“We are in an island, that is why they have to fly whenever they come here,” explained area councillor, Oabilwe Chombo.

Despite the hardships, Gabamochaa community is very united and wants to see their settlement grow into a village.

They wish to enjoy the share of the country’s wealth as well.

Because of this, Chombo together with the village’s action group, have build a single room where the pensioners will collect the money. From the pension money and Ipelegeng compensations, the community members each contributed P100 monthly towards this “major development.”

“In the past pensioners could not be paid on a rainy day, because the only shelter for that purpose was under a tree. Afterwards, the community with the help of the councillors who bought 700 bricks from Maun, managed to build the room,” explained the settlement’s headman of arbitration, Dichaba Maphomo.

The community hopes to use the structure for other important activities, such as to house a health post and customary court proceedings.

“It feels good to receive money in a private place and we built this structure because it means everything to us,” explained one of the village pensioners, Phuthego Zambo.

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