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NAMIBIA: Churches and other NGOs to use BIG for drought relief

Namibia is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected. Several groups have decided to use the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) as a model for distributing relief aid. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) initiated the effort, which will give a short-term monthly grant of N$100 to 4 000 drought affected people. The cash will be disbursed from mid-September 2013 until March 2014 when the next (hopefully improved) crop is harvested. The LWF selected four communities, one in each of the hardest hit regions of Hardap, Kunene, Omusati and Kavango.

A woman pictured in Caprivi while carrying two 25-kg bags of drought relief maize. -New Era

A woman pictured in Caprivi while carrying two 25-kg bags of drought relief maize. -New Era

The idea of using BIG as a method of distribution for disaster relief aid has been discussed for years, but this is the apparently first time it has been implement anywhere in the world. The decision to use this method follows the successful BIG pilot project conducted recently in Otjivero, Namibia.

BIG has several potential advantages of as a form of emergency relief. It allows individuals to tailor their relief to their needs. Food aid is good for people who need food, but not as good for people who need medicine, seeds for next year, or money to relocate. Direct food aid crowds out market provision of food, but BIG attracts more companies to bring food into the area. Donations can be more quickly turned into BIG than they can be turned into almost any other form of aid. Experts will be watching this project closely to determine whether BIG lives up to this potential.

Livestock in Namibian drought. -LWF

Livestock in Namibian drought. -LWF

The cash response of the Churches received media attention yesterday. The Bishops of the Lutheran Churches, the LWF Africa Secretary and TARA informed the media about the joint drought relief programme. The three major newspapers of Namibia reported in detail about it, two on the front page.

People can donate to the project online via the following link by entering the keyword “Appeal NAM 131”:

For more information about the project see these three articles:
ENGLISH: Fifi Rhodes, “Cash for drought victims,” New Era, September 3, 2013
ENGLISH: Clemans Miyanicwe, “Lutherans give N$100 to the poor,” the Namibian, September 3, 2013
GERMAN: Catherine Sasman, “Lutherse gemeenskap staan saam teen droogte,” Voorgele deur Republikein, September 3, 2013

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 981 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website ( More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

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