Youth growing a greener future in Maltahöhe
More and more vulnerable youth in Namibia are embracing urban farming as food insecurity rises. Soweriano Fredericks is one of the youth beneficiaries of Namibia’s BBB Urban agriculture project at Farm Daweb- Hardap Region. Soweriano is determined to nurture his green fingers into a sustainable livelihood and to make a profitable and sustainable career choice through agriculture.
Farm Daweb is the Hardap region’s project site for the Build Back Better (BBB) urban agriculture project. This urban agriculture project is the brainchild of a multi-stakeholder partnership established by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform and funded by the Government of Japan. Namibia’s BBB project is jointly implemented through UNDP Namibia, in conjunction with four regional councils (Erongo, Kavango, Khomas and Hardap).
Poverty and food insecurity have been soaring in the Hardap region, propelled by a prevalent drought and a massive urban-rural population drift. The COVID 19 pandemic has also presented further challenges with the loss of incomes and heightened unemployment. The 25-year-old Maltahöhe youth knows the grim reality very well, and not so long ago, he too was at rock bottom.
“Even before the pandemic, we have faced the crisis of drought and malnourishment in the Hardap region because the chronic drought just refused to let off. Unemployment is a massive problem in our community. I was unemployed for several years and helpless, and with 10 mouths to feed at home, including my son, it was very tough. Then suddenly, the Build Back Better urban garden project appeared and turned my life around,” he said.
The implementation approach of Namibia’s BBB urban agriculture project encourages horticultural crops production. The project outputs address food sufficiency and nutritional deficiencies affecting urban communities. Four project sites have been established in four other regions in Namibia, including Farm Daweb in the Hardap region. Even as each project site is conceptually different due to each region’s unique environmental demands and challenges. The BBB project appears to be a timely intervention, especially at this time when Namibia is grappling with a pandemic-battered economy. Each site aims to improve the nutrition needs of urban households, including the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
Farm Daweb’s vision is to become a success story that impacts the community in Maltahöhe by helping families survive the challenging times. However, just like Soweriano and Maltahöhe community, Farm Daweb’s journey has not been smooth sailing. Previously, the farm’s focus had been livestock farming, but the farm’s livestock was dealt a devastating blow from the effects of drought and other impacts of climate change.
“Our livestock on the farm had it very bad because the drought wiped out all of the animals until the farm was left with nothing. This was a calamity, but we have since faced the challenge and turned our eyes to horticulture. The support from our Government and UNDP Namibia and the funding from the Japanese Government came at the right time. I am so happy that we can now donate vegetables to orphanages and churches here in our community. Farm Daweb also provides food for work and cash for work opportunities to several local youths in the community. This is very important for me because I know the challenges they are experiencing”.
Soweriano Fredericks and the other beneficiaries of the urban agriculture project continue to receive theoretical and practical training in horticultural practices and the establishment of a farming cooperative.
Furthermore, the BBB beneficiaries have been taken on excursions to similar urban agriculture schemes. They have witnessed live demonstrations on mulching and composting. They were provided with hands-on experience on soil-water retention and the levels needed by different crop types relevant to the arid climate in the Hardap region.
The BBB project has also funded greenhouses to further mitigate against the harsh environment, and Soweriano and other youth beneficiaries have eagerly put their training into action.
“Today, several youths from my community live from what we grow at Farm Daweb. Given that we are a poor community with countless socioeconomic problems – where access to employment and food is often a struggle – our daily lives are always a fight. But thanks to the BBB urban agriculture project and Farm Daweb, we are managing to survive this pandemic. I believe that Farm Daweb has kept several members of our community alive. Our mission on Farm Daweb is to employ as many youths as possible from the Maltahöhe community. We also continue to give deep consideration to pensioners and the vulnerable children in the orphanages here in Maltahöhe”, he concluded.
Left to right – Soweriano Fredericks, Samuel Joel and Ricky Simon – youth beneficiaries confidently share learnings from their experience as budding framers at Farm Daweb– Hardap Region.