Living mostly in the north are, eight tribes collectively known as the Owambo. The Owambo people represent almost half of Namibia’s total population and are active in all sectors of the economy, from farming and fishing to trading. They plant mahango, a type of millet, which is their staple diet and which they very much prefer above maize. Mahangu is used for brewing beer, which is commonly enjoyed. Other crops include maize and sorghum, beans, melons and onions.
When the floodwaters from Angola fill the low-lying areas fishing becomes and important economic activity and when the waters subside, the cattle graze on the fresh grass. This then leads to the supply of manure for the gardens cultivated on the higher ground between the wetlands. Exposure to the business environments created by the Europeans triggered an astonishing development of entrepreneurial activity amongst them and trading in goods is feverishly practiced. There are very few families today, which are not involved in some form of retailing activity. Many very large wholesale and retail enterprises have developed over the years and a number of the businessmen have extended into other areas of Namibia, while some have ventured into Angola.
The social and cultural evolution which has taken place over the past 30 years or so has changed much of the traditional way of life. Many of the typical homesteads have made way for more modern suburbs and villages, the old huts being replaced with brick and corrugated iron structures and the agricultural and cattle herding activities moving away to the rural areas. However, many traditional villages exist and demonstrate the orderliness of their social structure. Family groups live in homesteads that are enclosed with wooden pole fences and are designed to facilitate observance of strict social customs and efficient domestic practices.