After starting at a small plot near Outjo Constituency Office 16 years ago the community garden there has moved to a bigger plot four kilometers from the road between Kamanjab and Outjo.
The community garden was established at the northwestern town in 2000 by people living with HIV/AIDS, known as the Outjo Group, to promote positive living among those infected with the virus.
The project is also intended to overcome the stigma and discrimination attached to HIV/AIDS sufferers, as well as provide an income-generating activity for themselves, but over the years any interested person was allowed to join the group whether HIV positive or negative, according to Outjo Constituency Councillor Johannes Anstino.
Previously, when people living with HIV/AIDS were the only members at the community garden project, it was difficult for others to come and assist them and there was an impression created that they were living in isolation, said Anstino.
At the new plot the group – which consists of 15 members out of 25 registered members – have started planting cabbage, tomatoes, spinach and onions in small containers before replanting the seedlings. “The group is busy clearing the land and has made rows already. The group has also requested a solar panel from Kunene Regional Council to pump water,” Anstino told New Era on Friday.
The solar panel will be delivered soon to the community garden and one of the group members will be residing in a tent at the community garden to safeguard it. Kunene Regional Council has been one of main sponsors of the community garden over the years.
The borehole from which the water will be pumped free of charge belongs to Outjo Municipality. Anstino believes the Outjo Community Garden is an example of Namibians meeting government halfway in the fight to eradicate poverty.
Transport is provided by various line ministries represented on the constituency aids coordinating committee on those days the members go to the garden site, but at times transport may not be available, as officials from the line ministry responsible for providing transport on that specific day might be out of Outjo to do outreach work, thus at times the members walk four kilometers to Outjo, as they did last Thursday.
The Civil Society Foundation sponsored the project with spades, wheelbarrows and other equipment needed for gardening. Back then, the community garden members also made an ointment, which cost N$10, but they stopped producing it in 2013 due to lack of funds to buy basic products they need to produce the ointment with.
“The ointment was in great demand, but buying products to produce the ointment was a challenge. The people said it was a great help for flu and colds,” one of the group members who has been living positively with HIV/AIDS for more than five years told New Era.
The Outjo group also received four sewing machines from Kunene Regional Council and basic training was offered to them. The group called upon individuals or institutions that can assist them with further training so they can sew other types of clothing, besides the T-shirts they currently make. Each member received N$700 from the sale of T-shirts they produced.
“For us it’s a step forward. We’re aiming for greater things by engaging in activities that benefit us and our community,” one of the members said.