Paper maker dreams big

The Onankali Paper Making Co-operative is based on a unique indigenous raw material, Mahango stems. It has caught the attention of local promoters and is one of the indigenous industries featured in a product brochure, Made in Namibia. It is the only local manufacturer of a paper of any type.
The founder of the project, Abraham Shikongo said that the project came about when he returned to his village after moving to Windhoek to find gainful employment. Now with 10 members to the project and with funding from the Oshikoto Town Council, a small vending shop has been opened.
“We are not so happy with the shop as we wanted a workshop to make the paper and train people. But after visits from the Ministry of Trade and sorting out complaints of wrongful spending of allocated money, a workshop will be built not too far away from the Rural Development Corporation building where we currently are.”
Shikongo recalls fondly how he initially received training from the Medium Entgerprise Development and Africa Groups of Sweden. After showcasing his products in 2003 at the Windhoek Show it was found to be stronger than two other handmade paper products when stress tested.
Nampower will also be funding the business to build a small office for administrative functions. “It is not so easy handling the administrative side of things without an office. So to handle more orders will be great” he said.
Onankali Paper Making Co-operative also makes book covers, envelopes and gift cards from a mixture of mostly omahangu stalk and recycled paper. Their larger orders are mostly placed by art vendors such as the Omba Gallery in Windhoek.
The paper making business is also in the process of being featured in a catalog of the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Made in Nambia publicationi, Shikongo said. With help from the US Self-help Program, a hand press machine was obtained with additional seed funding to buy more manufacturing equipment. He said the business is undeterred in contributing to the national plea of poverty eradication by hopefully building a small production factory to handle the mostly manual work.
“We also tried training many of the youth but they eventually dropped out because the business does not have a steady stream of income.” Shikongo added that their troubles are many as they also have to serve as caretakers of the Onankali Rural Development Centre unlike in other place where these government facilities have designated, paid caretakers.