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Paper made from Mahangu stalks

 Abraham Shikongo at his stand at the SME Expo (Photograph by Hilma Hashange)

Abraham Shikongo at his stand at the SME Expo (Photograph by Hilma Hashange)

The annual Namibia SME Expo 2012, being hosted by SMEs Compete in the capital has attracted a lot of exhibitors, one such exhibitor is Onankali Mahangu Paper Making Cooperative, a well-known community based initiative in the northern part of the country.
Established a decade ago, Onankali Mahangu Paper Making  Cooperative was set up to facilitate the  manufacturing of paper made from Mahangu stalks, a common plant consumed as staple food in the north. The cooperative is located at Onankali Community Trust Centre in the Onyaanya Constituency in  the Oshikoto Region.
The co-operative started its operations after receiving training and technical support from the Rossing Foundation, UNAM Northern Campus, Small and Medium Development Enterprises and Africa Groups of Sweden.

The co-operative offers a wide-range of hand and finely crafted papers and paper products made from the stalks and leaves of Mahangu or millet. Products made from the stalks include photo albums, cards, envelopes, notebooks, bookmarks and conference folders, among others.
According to the Chairperson of the co-operative, Abraham Shikongo, the procedures of preparing the stalks are easy although they are labour intensive.
He said: “First, the mahangu stalks are cut, then we cook them in a pot and then rinse the fiber. After that, we add recycled paper together with the fiber in a refinery to make a mixture and then couch the paper. We then roll the paper and finally produce the different products such as enevelopes, “ Shikongo explained.
It takes about a day to two days for the paper to dry completely.
The co-operative currently employs 16 people of which 10 are on a permanent basis and 6 are temporary. The work force comprise of 5 men and 11 women.
The co-operative recently started printing T-shirts but are currently using other companies’ equipment in Oshakati and Ondangwa because they don’t have the required Roland print and cutting machines of their own.
“We are also in need of recycled paper as it sometimes becomes scarce so we are appealing to big companies to not throw away their used paper but instead send it to us to make beautiful products from it such as this conference folder,” Shikongo said with a smile.
The co-operative mainly targets tourists and resorts so they are in need of a place to sell their products. Lack of machinery is also one of the challenges that the co-operative is facing. Omba Gallery currently orders and re-sell products from the co-operative at its craft centre.


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