WINDHOEK – Twelve Namibia Organic Association (NOA) members recently attended a four-day Organic Urban Agriculture Training Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa.
The training was offered by Abalimi Bezekhaya, an Nong-govermental Prganisation (NGO) working to empower the disadvantaged through urban agriculture projects in the informal settlements around Cape Town. Urban food security in Namibia is a challenge, and it is important to develop the skills and capacity of urban dwellers since more and more people are moving to cities. NOA is receiving increased requests for knowledge sharing and capacity building on the topic of organic agricultural production.NOA is very grateful for the sponsorship by Tony Pupkewitz which made this capacity building exercise possible. “In order to increase food security in the informal settlements, people can learn to produce some of their own food in the city,” says Manjo Smith, NOA Chairperson. “Many people have access to a little bit of land, and with innovative water usage methods, it is possible to produce some vegetables.”
“We realised that we need to put a competent team together that can ultimately offer local training and support to urban agricultural projects, small scale farming projects as well as large scale commercial organic farming projects. This is our first step in this direction, and we are very excited with all the knowledge and practical experienced that we have gained,” says Smith.
The training course was very extensive, and training topics included planning of an urban garden, production of seedlings, soil fertility management, crop rotation, companion planting, plant nutrition, building compost heaps, applying mulching, preparing liquid manures, pest and disease control.
“Abalimi Bezekhaya offered us a perfect opportunity of theoretical training, practical training as well as site visits and engagement with the urban agricultural community projects on the Cape Flats,” says John Mafukidze and Patricia Sola-Mafukidze, founders of the Hope Initiatives Namibia (HISA).
HISA is a community based project in Katutura which focuses on supporting the community that are generally food insecure to grow home gardens. They also work with local Primary School teachers and Kindergartens teachers. As a member of NOA, HISA endeavours to educate the community it serves to care for vulnerable children and offer training that will benefit the community by showing a functional model of a Community Organic Horticultural project that brings food security to individual households, incomes for breadwinners who if they have any debilitating disease can still get participation of family members in urban and peri-urban informal settlements.
The Abalimi project is a good model about how sustainability for community based organisation such as HISA, can help the people to improve their lives. It’s a Win – Win situation, and the project has the potential to reduce household poverty, create jobs for informal dwellers, improve the situation of household food insecurity, enrich peri -urban informal settlements with food supply and consumption of organically grown vegetables to sell and make a living. For a community based organisation such as HISA, this was an AHA! Moment at Abalimi Centre and many other places visited such as the Skye Organic Farm, Khayelitsha Garden Centre, Moya We Khaya Garden and Bambanani Garden.
“The lessons learnt from the experiences of Abalimi on how to turn social gardens into market gardens that will ensure sustainability was an eye opener for our organic project in Namibia. We plan to adopt this practical model and contextualise it for the community, primary schools and kindergartens within the Namibian environment in the near future. HISA will strengthen its training programme with local primary schools and include the systemic teaching of Basic Organic Horticulture for the urban market as well as pioneer the production of seedlings for Organic market and own consumption,” says Mafukidze.
Martha Nataniel’s highlight on the course was to see the high production in the city vegetable gardens, and how the community sell the produce and earn an income. “The community members involved in the respective gardens are responsible for their own piece of land, which includes the soil preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting and selling. A percentage of each member’s profit is then put into the “pot” to cover the cost of irrigation. This helps them improve their own conditions”.
Urban agricultural is a global and growing pursuit that can contribute to job creation, economic development, food security, community building and the social inclusion of the urban poor and women. Furthermore, it helps with the greening of the city and the productive re-use of city wastes. “In a country with very limited resources, it is important to explore the various opportunities of turning waste into resources, which can ultimately be used to produce food for ourselves – so the entire city can become a farm”, concludes Smith.