The urban poor in Windhoek are poorer and more food insecure than 11 other major cities in Southern Africa.
The research by the African Food Security Urban Network from 2012 found that those in informal housing are 89% food insecure, the third highest for the region. Households in four of the poorer areas of the city were surveyed: Tobias Hainyeko with a total population of 45,800, Moses //Garoëb (45,500), Samora Machel (49,700) and Khomasdal North (43,400).
Former Windhoek Mayor, Agnes Kafula, speaking at last year’s World Food Day said “we must recognise that there are thousands of our residents who do not have access to food and nutrition required to lead a healthy and productive life.”
Urban food security in Southern Africa has been described by both policy-makers and researchers as an “invisible crisis” according to The African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) which was founded in 2008 to address the crisis of food insecurity in Africa’s rapidly-growing towns and cities.
Ndeyapo Nickanor, a Statistics and Population lecturer at the University of Namibia believes the research, suggesting that low food production in urban areas is a result of shortcomings in policy formulation. She however says that that support for urban agriculture will not alone solve “the crisis of urban food insecurity”, she believes that they must be developed as part of any new strategy.
Nickanor says that nine in 10 of those who grow vegetables in Windhoek do so only during summer when it rains. “Thus water is a major obstacle for urban farmers in urban Namibia.”
The researches found a need for a systematic national and city strategy in reducing high levels of food insecurity amongst the urban poor in general and in informal settlements specifically.
The current Mayor of Windhoek, Muesee Kazapua, visited Belo Horizonte in Brazil, a city of more than 2.5 million which has been named by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization as a leader in the “Zero Hunger” programme.
Windhoek is said to be a prototype for many other cities in SADC and beyond the research it was found that many of the challenges facing cities such as housing, service provision are well recognised, while food insecurity is not.
Food availability is not an issue in a city like Windhoek and what is more important is food access and how it is dependent on incomes and food pricing. Unlike in other cities, it also depends on whether rural-urban food transfers are sustainable and can be more organised and efficient.
The survey results also showed that 12% of urban households were poor (including 6% very poor). In the Khomas Region, the figures were 6% poor and 2% very poor. This would seem to imply either that poverty is almost non-existent in Windhoek or that the methodology for calculating the poverty lines might have been overly generous.
The survey used two different measures of poverty: household income and the Lived Poverty Index. Based on household income for the previous month, 33% of households have monthly incomes of less than N$1,900 (about US$8/day). With an average household size of four, that approximates to about US$2/person/day indicating a serious poverty situation well above the 12% reported for Khomas Region above.
The researchers found that there appears to be a threshold income above which more households are able to achieve food security and below which the vast majority are not.
The proportion of households sourcing food from the informal economy(66%) is high but lower than in most of the other cities in the AFSUN survey.