AS food insecurity rises, vulnerable Namibian youths increasingly turn to urban farming.
One of them is Soweriano Fredericks, a beneficiary of the Build Back Better (BBB) urban agriculture project at Farm Daweb, five kilometres east of Maltahöhe in the Hardap Region.
The young man 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 BBB.
This urban agriculture project is the brainchild of a multi-stakeholder partnership established by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, and is funded by the Government of Japan.
Namibia’s BBB project is jointly implemented through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Namibia, in conjunction with the regional councils of 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 Fredericks knows the grim reality very well, and not so long ago, he too had hit rock bottom.
“Even before the pandemic, we faced the crisis of drought and malnourishment in the Hardap region because the chronic drought just refused to let off,” he said.
“Unemployment is a massive problem in our community. I was unemployed for several years and helpless, and with ten mouths to feed at home, including my son, it was very tough. Then the Build Back Better urban garden project appeared and turned my life around,” he said.
The implementation approach of BBB encourages horticultural crops production.
The project outputs address food sufficiency and nutritional deficiencies affecting urban communities.
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 Fredericks and the community, Farm Daweb’s journey has not been smooth sailing.
“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,” Fredericks said.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
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.
In addition, 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 the harsh environment, and Fredericks 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,” Fredericks said.
“I believe that Farm Daweb has kept several members of our community alive.”
Fredericks added that their mission is to employ as many youths as possible from the Maltahöhe community.
“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,” he said.
“But thanks to BBB and Farm Daweb, we are managing to survive this pandemic.”