The Ondangwa Town Council’s (OTC) Local Economic Development (LED) Department recently came out in support of four community groups in climate-smart vegetable production, which uses container-cultivation micro-drip systems.
The project took off on September 10, with theoretical training and exposure visits to local vegetable producer Hilaria Iyanga.
Iyanga has for the past three years produced spinach and tomatoes on her plot just south of town, for sale at the Ondangwa open market.
“The initiative follows the call from the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare to town councils to come up with projects that would improve people’s well-being and also serve to eradicate poverty,” explained Kandi Iihuhwa, Ondangwa’s chief LED officer.
“Due to the severe food insecurity and acute poverty levels among vulnerable households and individuals, OTC chose to start supporting climate-smart food production in urban areas as a first step,” stated Iihuhwa.
The project utilizes container-cultivation, micro-drip systems, which means vegetables are grown in large UV-proof polyethylene bags and irrigated using micro-drip systems that ensure maximum water retention and minimal evaporation.
Each unit contains a 210-litre water tank, 200 60-litre sized polyethylene bags, pipes and drippers that irrigate straight to the plants’ roots.
The tap on the tank is fitted with a filter, meaning that harvested flood or rainwater can easily be used, as particles that might clog the pipes are caught in the easy-to-clean filter.
The reason for using a container cultivation system is to enable the users to create a fertile soil medium in a contained environment by mixing local depleted soil with compost, well-aged manure and earthworms.
Adding organic matter and mulch also increases the water-holding capacity of the soil and reduces evaporation, thus saving vastly on irrigation water.
The UV-proof bags last approximately eight years in the sun and are easily portable in case of flooding.
“The first four micro-drip systems will serve as a pilot to guide us for rolling out more such systems in the future. The OTC procures the systems, seed, training and mentoring, and also covers the cost of water for the initial three months. All other inputs, like filling the bags, collecting manure, setting up the systems and making sure they are looked after properly is the responsibility of the groups,” explained Martin Kasita, the community liaison officer at the OTC.
“I learned a lot from the training and by visiting Iyanga’s garden. I am very inspired, so much so that I want to start my own garden in my backyard. It is very clear that when you use micro-drip irrigation you save a lot of water when producing vegetables. Our group is ready to start, we can even start today,” said Muna Shiku, a resident from Omashaka informal settlement in Ondangwa.
“Successful groups can easily expand their micro-drip systems in future by adding more bags, piping and drippers, thus creating surplus for the market. We have already seen shining examples of micro-drip system owners, like Hilaria Iyanga, for instance, who received a system from the Africa Adaptation Project three years ago. Locally grown vegetables in these systems are organically produced and marketed at affordable prices in comparison to imported produce,” said Iihuhwa.
“As a next step in community support, we are embarking on opening a fish marketing point at the Ondangwa open market to be run by community members, and also to prepare for fish farming in flood water catchments. The time to prepare is now as we never know when the next efundja will arrive. Instead of complaining about floods, we should make the best of the abundance of water it brings,” added Iihuhwa.
The container cultivation micro-drip systems are supplied by Promandies Investments cc.
Training and mentoring is provided by Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions.