Taking hands to address food insecurity

08 March 2018 | Agriculture

A food security survey covering about 180 000 people in four lower-income neighbourhoods in Windhoek indicated that 77% of households were food insecure. In informal settlements food insecurity is higher at 89%.

The survey was conducted in the Tobias Hainyeko, Moses Garoëb, Samora Machel and Khomasdal North constituencies. Although the African Food Security Urban Network survey was carried out in 2008, food insecurity has since then increased to 92% in the informal settlements, according to data from 2017.

While the dietary diversity score (the quality of the household diet) was low in 2008 at 5.95, it has fallen to 4.47 in 2017. In informal settlements this score fell from 4.78 in 2008 to 2.66 last year. “This indicates that most households had consumed food from fewer than four food groups in the previous 24 hours,” says Ina Neuberget Wilkie of the World Future Council.

“People need to be able to eat enough healthy and diverse food. Those who do not eat well, cannot learn well and will not work well. Food is fundamental,” she stressed.

To address this issue, a new project called Farm Okukuna, was launched in the capital in a bid to improve food and nutrition security in the city's northern settlements. This partnership is between a number of stakeholders including the Fund for Local Co-operation of the embassy of Finland, the City of Windhoek (CoW) and the Namibia Future Farming Trust (NFF).

Councillor Ananias Niizimba of the CoW said Farm Okukuna will be the centre of a number of programmes, including growing food, marketing it, supporting small enterprises and entrepreneurship, and improving nutrition. The City provided the erf, is erecting fencing and will organise basic services such as security, electricity, semi-purified and fresh water.

The NFF has already successfully established 11 aquaponic sites in Windhoek. The plan on also setting up hydro-aquaponics, with initial funding from the Finnish embassy, while community members will be trained and encouraged to use traditional methods for preserving leafy greens.

A focus point at Farm Okukuna, is permaculture. The Eloolo Permaculture Initiative has proved that this method is suitable for growing food in Windhoek's testing climate. Furthermore, they will develop systems that work on a small or medium scale and can be easily adopted and enhanced by local communities on the farm and in the informal settlements.

Although it is important for residents to start growing their own food, Antje Schidlowski of the NFF says it isn't realistic.

“There is definitely a need to stimulate urban food growing, as the statistics on malnutrition and food insecurity speak for themselves. It is however crucial to teach communities what they can do within their context, which is the purpose of Okukuna Farm.”

Not everyone is excited about the project, with some taking to social media stating that, “these people seem to be under the impression that placing a tree in a hole already made for them and then posing for a photo with shovel in hand will impress upon the people to grow their own.”

He continued, “the moment you leave, all activity will cease and the money you invest squandered. You are certainly not the first nor the last who suffer this insanity. Let's see where this project stands in two years' time. Will you pose for a photo at the ruins then?”

According to Antje, they respect constructive criticism from people who have engaged in the fight to reduce the problems of malnutrition, poverty and unemployment.

“The organisations collaborating on the Okukuna Farm project form a strong partnership and are determined to create a model for more sustainable community projects,” she says.

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