More than 100 guests on Sunday celebrated a new permaculture garden at Van Rhyn Primary School as part of World Food Day. “We want to show that growing food in Windhoek is possible,” one of the organisers, Ina Neuberger Wilkie from the World Future Council, explained.
Guests were taken on a tour through the garden which the Permaculture Initiative Eloolo is developing together with the school’s learners.
Deputy Mayor of Windhoek Fransina Kahungu pointed out that the challenges facing the vulnerable people of our society are numerous and diverse and call for concerted action: “As local authority councillors we are charged with the responsibility of looking after our residents, albeit we lack adequate resources. I am confident that Council, together with stakeholders such as the World Future Council, will work tirelessly to solve the problems of residents living in poverty and difficult circumstances within the boundaries of the City of Windhoek.”
Permaculture was first developed in arid Australia and is especially suitable for dry climates. It features, for example, contour ditches that collect rainwater and let it seep into into the soil. In the school garden guests were shown how the ditches collect most of the rain falling onto the schoolgrounds and leads to greenhouses and trees. Digging these ditches into the rocky soil is exhausting work, but permaculture is a lot about planning too.
“For every hour of gardening, you do a hundred hours of planning,” said Stefan Eins of the Eloolo Initiative estimates.
Not only in Windhoek, but in many cities across the world urban agriculture is becoming increasingly popular. Growing food in the city means connecting the manpower and the market. Produce can be exchanged more easily; ideas and solutions can be discussed in different places and it is a great opportunity to involve people of all ages and all walks of life in the production of their own food.
Consequently, combining sustainable and water-wise methods, such as permaculture, with urban agriculture is in line with the theme of this year’s World Food Day: ‘Climate is Changing. Food and Agriculture Must Too’.
Recent media reports have emphasised that Namibia has a serious hunger problem. The latest report from the 2016 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) explains that “hunger” refers to four indicators: undernourishment, child stunting (low height-foge), child wasting (low weight-for-height), and child mortality. http://www.ifpri.org/topic/global-hunger-index
In Namibia, 42 percent of the population is undernourished, the report says. Wasting in children under five years is 7.1 percent, while stunting in children under five years is 23.1 percent.
That’s the big picture. But, seriously, how can a little school garden in Windhoek contribute to that change? The premaculuture enthusiasts certainly believe it can.