Namibians from all walks of life demonstrated the urgent need to save water countrywide and grow their own organic vegetables to contribute to household food security during the recently held beginners’ course, hosted by the Namibian Organic Association at Amani Development Centre.
The one-day course had to be repeated on a Sunday due to overwhelming demand. Thirty-six people attended the introductory course. Another course will be offered soon, says founder and chairperson of NOA Manjo Krige, as the waiting list just keeps growing.
A range of people attended the course from all over the country – all interested in growing their own food in a natural, organic way. The day involved a combination of theory and practical demonstrations.
The facilitators were Manjo Krige, who has been working in organic agriculture and growing organic herbs and vegetables for twelve years, and Stephen Barrow who has been working with organic agriculture and permaculture in South Africa and internationally for 20 years.
Stephen works internationally in organic certification and offers consultancy and training in organic agriculture and permaculture. He has worked with Manjo for the past seven years and helped in the establishment of the NOA.
Linda Raven – who is doing urban farming in Windhoek, said: “Windhoek’s current water crisis is a perfect example of why we can’t continue with current food production methods. Permaculture gives lots of great ideas for maximising water usage and conservation. Creative people can come up with even more methods!
“I learned that when growing vegetables, there is always a solution in nature. The earth has been keeping plants alive much longer than humans have been around, whatever the problem may be: nutrient deficiency, nutrient overabundance, pests, and infections.
“There is a solution that may involve companion planting, or planting something which invites a predator to the pest, or planting something which brings certain nutrients to the soil. Whatever the problem may be, if we look to the earth for a natural solution, there will be one.”
‘‘Current industrial agricultural systems are causing huge environmental destruction, so we need to learn to produce food in a way that leaves the earth in a better condition than we found it. It’s also just immensely satisfying to walk outside, harvest your dinner and then eat it.
“I started a small garden at work and love learning new ideas for how I can keep it healthy and happy. I’m also planning on quitting my day job soon and going into full-time farming, so I keep trying to learn more and more about organic food production before I make the leap. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and left re-inspired and excited.
“Since doing the course, I’ve been using effective micro-organisms in my garden, increased my mulching, and have been a better parent to my worms. I look forward to using more things I learned when I get to the farm.
Karl Goagoseb, the gardener at Ovita Hunting, said he learned more about compost and how important it is to cover the earth with thick enough organic material (mulching).
Wiebke Schlettwein (also from Ovita Hutning) said she got a deeper insight into composting, soil quality and the idea of permaculture, which makes so much sense to her now. “We both enjoyed the course very much and it will take time to digest all the information,” she said.
Elke Matthaei says: “This is not only an interesting topic, but with accelerating climate change and degradation of the environment we should all do as much as we can to ensure that each one of us does not continue to do more damage to our environment. It is now widely accepted that agriculture has a huge impact on climate change, thus I cannot see another way forward than organic agriculture.
“In addition, with the drought in Namibia, I feel we have to learn how best to adapt to our environment and use what we have to be able to grow our food. So even if it means growing my own food in my garden using the resources from my home, I feel that this already can make a small contribution to reducing my footprint.
“The course was packed with useful information – from theoretical discussions on what ‘organic’ actually means, to practical demonstrations and hands-on tasks in the garden. Since I wanted to learn more about organic gardening in my own home, the sessions on how to lay out a vegetable garden, compost-making with my garden and kitchen waste, what complimentary vegetables and plants to grow and when, and how to use and recycle water, were very relevant and helpful.
“It was also extremely interesting to learn more about ‘effective microorganisms’ (EM) and how we should make use of nature’s mechanisms to stay healthy ourselves and to ensure the health of our soils.
“The course was a good reminder that whatever we get from nature, we can and should put back in nature. The day was just too short, and it was such fun to attend the course with so many interesting people from all over the country,” she notes.
The course covered:
- Some basic permaculture principles of garden design,
- Soil management,
- Using effective micro-organisms,
- Recycling garden and kitchen waste,
- How to make an earthworm farm,
- Making compost and solving some common problems,
- Growing your own seedlings,
- Planting out an edible garden (flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit trees and shrubs),
- Pest and disease control,
- How to manage weeds, and
- Drought management practices, including recycling water from your bathroom and kitchen.