Theresia Fisch was born in Keetmanshoop, a town in the Southern region of Namibia. She moved to Swakopmund with her husband and 5 sons to seek a better life for the family. However, as a result of the pandemic, the livelihood of her family was adversely affected. Suddenly, at 63 years of age and a pensioner, Theresia needed to find another means of survival through urban agriculture.
'I saw an advertisement on the Swakopmund municipality notice board about the Build Back Better urban agriculture project here in Swakopmund. I was very much interested and decided to apply. After a short period, I received a call informing me that my application was successful. I was so excited, and I had hope, although I was nervous about starting something new at my age.'
It had not been an easy take-off for Theresia and the other women, men and youth beneficiaries as they needed to learn about urban agriculture from scratch. Like the BBB beneficiaries, implementing the BBB urban garden project in Swakopmund city also started on a clean slate. While managing the intake of beneficiaries to ensure the inclusion of the most vulnerable persons, there was also a need to identify the right urban agricultural technology to implement. This was due to the unique challenges of the coastal climate and environment. As a result of several consultations with agricultural and environmental experts in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR), the Sustainable Coastal Gardening Community Program (SCGCP), and other technical partners, the decision was made to install greenhouses and raised beds. This approach was reached to mitigate the adverse environmental and climate conditions of the coastal city. The innovative urban farming solution also provides a fully controlled environment, which ensures all year food production.
The BBB urban agriculture is the brainchild of a multi-stakeholder partnership that includes the Government of Japan, UNDP Namibia, the Municipality of Swakopmund, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform. The project is in line with the Government of Japan’s Supplementary Budget priorities of 2020 and responds to the current socio-economic impact of the pandemic in Namibia. The BBB urban agriculture project focuses on improving the individual health and nutrition of vulnerable urban households while also enhancing Namibia’s local food systems.
While the greenhouse and raised beds were being constructed, Theresia and the other beneficiaries of the urban agriculture project started receiving theoretical and practical training in horticultural practices. Their training included organic composting, sustainable crop production, and agro-marketing. Furthermore, the BBB beneficiaries were taken on excursions to similar greenhouse schemes in the city. During these excursions, they witnessed live demonstrations on the benefits of applying different types of composting. They were provided with hands-on experience on soil-water retention and the levels needed by different crop types. They also gained valuable knowledge on the suitable cash crops to grow, considering the weather conditions and raised bed technology. Thus, the project focuses on producing cucumbers, beetroots, tomatoes, green peppers and sweet potatoes. Finally, in July 2021, the greenhouse and raised-bed urban garden was fully functional, and Theresia and her fellow beneficiaries put their training into action.
After four months, Theresia describes her emotional experience of the first harvest.
'I am so excited and thankful for this opportunity. I did not only learn how to grow crops but also how to start a business in agriculture. I can't wait to share my knowledge with other fellow Namibians, especially the unemployed youth in my community. Agriculture is our hope for the future. Although it requires a lot of physical effort, there are certainly great benefits because it can solve poverty, sickness, and unemployment.'
The BBB urban agriculture project is also implementing similar multi-faceted interventions in three other regions in Namibia (Kavango East, Khomas and Hardap). These interventions are focused on enhancing the production of horticultural crops that address nutritional deficiencies affecting urban communities.