Against the background of the pronounced water crisis, the City of Windhoek (CoW) is still pushing for backyard and community gardens around Windhoek as part of its urban agriculture strategy to alleviate poverty and mitigate hunger.
The City Council’s position has left many with more questions than answers as recently the municipality has been cautioning residents to use water sparingly, yet are advocating for more backyard gardens and transforming riverbeds into community gardens.
The City Council last week issued a public notice announcing that the ongoing drought has left the municipality with little choice, but to declare a water crisis in the capital in line with the council’s drought management plan.
The same notice announced that the watering of gardens is restricted to trees, shrubs and perennials once every second week, while the watering of lawns, flowers, and vegetable gardens is strictly prohibited.
Other measures include no washing of cars at home other than utilising certified carwashes and also that no watering of public parks and sport fields should be done except through an approved semi-purified irrigation water connection.
Re-elected Windhoek Mayor Muesee Kazapua last week defended council’s seemingly impossible initiative, taking into consideration the water crisis around Windhoek and Namibia at large.
Windhoek Municipality was hosting a two-day workshop on peri-urban agriculture aimed at supporting government’s effort in the war on poverty and hunger.
He said there are countries with climates even drier than Namibia’s, yet they are able to produce fruits and vegetables on commercial scale, which they managed to develop through research, which enabled them to successfully grow vegetables for their communities.
“As a city, we are not planning for today… but also for the future. This weekend we received some showers. Who knows? Maybe it is the beginning of a good rainy season. Let us, therefore, not be discouraged by the lack of sufficient water today and use it as an excuse not to plan for backyard and community gardening,” the mayor insisted.
CoW acting chief executive officer Fillemon Nangolo Hambuda said the city seriously plans to eradicate poverty. “Now that we don’t have water, we can just plan and have the understanding and when the time comes when we have ample water, then you have the knowledge and can start. Obviously Namibia was not like this. It is because of the El Nino phenomenon and globalisation. The planning and ideas of community gardens started a long time ago,” Hambuda said.
Asked why the carwashes are still operating unhindered, Hambuda said: “You have to strike a balance between economic activities. It’s also someone’s bread and butter. We said those that have drains use less water since we reclaim a certain percentage of that water. The water is not totally wasted, as it flows back to our dams, but as for the rest of the carwashes, the City Police should just do their work.”
He said currently there are contractors testing the ground to determine where to drill boreholes, especially in the vicinity of Luiperdsvalei on the outskirts of Windhoek. The City Council is also trying to deepen the current existing boreholes to access more water.
“In the aquifers there is water, but our boreholes reached a certain point. Our capacity of retrieving water is between 30 and 40 percent. We won’t run totally out of water. We hope with effort of the public and the prospect of rain we can beat this crisis,” he said.
About the Goreagab dam, Hambuda said the water is highly contaminated, hence the water cannot be treated. “There were tests done and it will cost us a lot of money to treat it. What we need perhaps is to empty the whole dam and treat the whole dam for new inflows. For now it is not an option,” he noted. He said there are experts from drier countries, such as Egypt, who would come to share their experiences on agriculture in desert areas.
Kazapua also touched on food insecurity, saying it exists when people lack access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food, and are, therefore, not consuming the food required for normal growth and development, and for an active and healthy life. This, he says, may be due to the unavailability of food, insufficient buying power, inappropriate distribution or inadequate utilisation at household level.