”The world needs friendship and kindness, of which the friendship between Namibia and Finland is an example.”
Seppo Kalliokoski (born 1944) is a veteran of Finnish missionary work and development cooperation, who served a mission in Northern Namibia for 17 years.
He was born in Loppi, a small town in Southern Finland, but raised in Helsinki. Even before coming to Africa, he had heard many stories about life in Namibia from his friend Kalle Syrjä, who was born in Owambo in 1935.
Kalliokoski and his wife who was a doctor, left for Namibia in 1973, where he was to start as a maintenance manager at a local hospital. Eventually, he drifted to teach animal husbandry, run the only mill in the area and arrange proper training for boys.
He was known in the 1970s and 1980s as the ”Cow Man” in northern Namibia. Probably there are still people in Owambo who remembers the Cow Man or who have at least heard of a man from far away who knew everything about cows. Kalliokoski had an impact on many sectors in Northern Namibia. In fact, in 1983 he was awarded by the title of Chief under the King of Ondonga and Member of the Court. Also the king Immanuel Kauluma Elifas appointed Seppo Kalliokoski as his advisor. Kalliokoski continued the long work of the Finns in Namibia and started as a missionary in Owambo in 1972 and was there with his family until Namibia’s independence until 1990.
Kalliokoski has done his day job at the Finnish Missionary Society both in Namibia and in Finland, and has also held numerous position of responsibility in various organizations and is currently the chairman of the Finland-Namibia Society. The Finland-Namibia Society is an organization founded in 1974, which participates in development cooperation with its own projects. Kalliokoski has been chairman of Union of Friendship Associations in Finland between 2000-2018 and Honorary President since 2021. He has been also active in the Finnish Mission Society.
The thing that Kalliokoski has learned during the years in Owambo is that amboculture values asking for help. Also appreciation of cows and horses is a crucial part of traditional culture. According to Kalliokoski, a man is not a man in Namibia if he does not have a wife, children and cows.
When thinking the time in Owambo he praises Namibians from the bottom of his heart for being humane and lovable.“Without Namibia, I wouldn’t be who I am, which is why I always have the Namibian flag and the Mission Cross on my collar.“
This post is part of the series ”Finns in Namibia, Namibians in Finland”. Who do you think should be featured next? #FinNam150
Fingo (2011): Kehitysmaaliikkeen leijona, Seppo Kalliokoski.
Groop, Kim (2017): Shikongo shaKalulu, Nakambale and shared memories. Olukonda historic mission station as a cultural memory and heritage site, Journal of Namibian Studies, 65 – 87.
Helsingin Sanomat (2002): Lehmien mies.
Hintikainen, Katja (2011): Kehityspolitiikan ruohonjuurella; Kansalaisjärjestöt Suomen kehitysyhteistyössä 1974–2010.
Seppo Kalliokoski’s homepage (2021): http://www.seppokalliokoski.fi/
Photo: Seppo Kalliokoski greeting Helvi Nujoma, mother of Namibia’s first president (http://www.seppokalliokoski.fi/kuvia-seposta)