Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Namibia has also been assessed as having the third-largest global income inequality gap with glaring evidence of extreme inequalities. Inequality — whether based on gender, economic status, or other elements — prevents many people from accessing services and opportunities and moving out of poverty. At 43.9% of female-headed households registered in 2013, one could conclude that women in Namibia are among the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of shocks such as the Covid 19 pandemic. The pandemic has further exacerbated these already vulnerable and marginalised groups by presenting further challenges at household and community levels. This has contributed to food insecurity, with knock-on effects severely compromised access to nutritional food and other basic necessities.
Amid these challenging times and prevalent inequalities, the Government of Japan provided funding and support through the build back better programme to strengthen Namibia food systems to recover from emergencies and related shocks. The BBB programme is jointly implemented by UNDP Namibia, Ministry of Agriculture, Works and Land Reform and four municipalities. This multi-stakeholder programme focuses on sustainable interventions that support the most vulnerable, including women, youth and people living with disabilities, by providing allotments, seedlings, training and capacity. The BBB programme is being implemented through urban garden schemes across four regions in Namibia; Hardap, Khomas, Erongo and Kavango-East.
This programme has set the pace with sustainable practices that integrate gender equity and the empowerment of marginalised groups such as women into its implementation framework. This has already helped absorb part of the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic. Namibia's Build Back Better programme is determined to bring equality to the forefront of urban agriculture to achieve a food-secure future for Namibia.
The programme aims to improve the production of nutritious, high-value produce such as vegetables and fruits, thereby addressing nutritional deficiencies affecting urban and peri-urban households. More so increasing access to healthy food available for home consumption and income generation. The programme's framework capacitates respective municipalities to become food self-sufficient, cope with the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and develop structures to handle such shocks in the future.
Female beneficiaries are a critical element of Namibia’s Urban Agriculture – Build Back Better programme jointly implemented by UNDP Namibia and we would like to introduce some of these women who are working towards bridging Namibia’s gender gap through urban agriculture
Johanna Simon was voted Vice Chairperson of the Farm Daweb Cooperative Committee and is one of the women beneficiaries on the #BBB project in Maltahöhe, Hardap Region. “I thank the people of Japan, because this farm has helped me to put food in the pot for my family and I also donate the surplus to my community here in Maltahöhe”.
Through the BBB Urban farming programme, Maria Kauma has learned skills that improved the nutrition of her family and the people in her community in Windhoek. “By growing what I need near where I live, I am now able to afford nutritious, fresh and organic food for my family and community. Thank you to the Government of Japan”.
Auguste Kankono has been encouraged by the impact of the learning she has gained through the Urban Agriculture programme to transfer her learning to assist some of the women in her community to start backyard vegetable gardens. “The people in my community are my customers and they order fresh and organic vegetable from my garden every time they need it. This support from the Government of Japan made it possible for me to get extra savings when I sell so I can to put into other needs”.
Emilie Mwetako is one of the three group leaders nominated by fellow beneficiaries on the #BBB project in Swakopmund Municipality. Emilie moved from the north to seek employment in Swakopmund but was unemployed.“I am grateful for the support from the Government of Japan because now I can employ myself. I have learned how to grow fruits and vegetables here in Swakopmund and I plan to transfer my training home to the north to help my people grow other crops apart from maize”.
The BBB Urban Agriculture programme, which is funded by the Government of Japan is supporting women like Saara Johannes to produce more nutritious and high-value crops to increase their income and the consumption of healthy food for the home. “The support that we got from the people of Japan really helped us because when we first started, we did not know much about horticulture. But now we got training on which vegetables grow well in summer or winter”.
The #BBB programme supports individual urban-based horticultural smallholding producers like Agnes Sikongo to improve the production of more nutritious, high-value produce such as vegetables and fruits to increase access to healthy food available for home consumption and income generation. “I now able to support my husband to take care of our immediate family and some orphaned members of our extended family. I am really grateful for the support from the government and the people of Japan”.
Some of these beneficiaries of the BBB programme are already organising themselves to form early-stage cooperatives and have received training in cooperative structures. Ongoing capacitation for these beneficiaries include training irrigation methods to maximise soil moisture. They have also received training on several organic composting regimes that would ensure their produce gets the correct boost to promote optimum growth for their crops and improve their autonomy.