Auguste Kankondi is an emerging urban farmer in Goreangab, a neighbourhood in Windhoek city, Namibia. Goreangab is one of the communities that are severely affected by poverty and food insecurity. But as a result of Auguste’s experience on the Build Back Better urban agriculture programme, several urban gardens are springing up to help feed her community.
'I am proud to say I am an urban farmer, even though it was not my original career plan. After completing Grade 12, I had to leave my village in Okahao, in Omusati Region, because it wasn't easy to get any job there. I decided to come to Windhoek to look for a job. After some time, I got a job, but I lost it again, and I was forced to stay at home for three years.'
Auguste moved from her village to Windhoek city in search of better opportunities and the promise of a better life. However, rural-urban migration was not a solo idea of Auguste Kankondi's. Namibia has been experiencing a massive population drift due to dwindling opportunities in the villages. This surge was provoked by the need to escape over-population, violence, disease and hunger. This migration has further strained the infrastructure and services in the urban areas and severely increased poverty and food insecurity. As a direct result, poor people in urban cities in Namibia live in urban slums without access to employment, clean water or enough food
With the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an even more urgent need to shore up food security for poor and vulnerable urban households. This is a focus point for Namibia's Build Back Better (BBB) urban agriculture project. The BBB urban agriculture project is a multi-stakeholder partnership established by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, funded by the Government of Japan and jointly implemented through the UNDP Namibia and the local governments from four regions in Namibia. Several urban garden schemes have been implemented through the BBB urban agriculture project in four regions (Erongo, Hardap, Kavango East and Khomas).
Auguste Kankondi is one of the beneficiaries from Farm Okukuna, an urban municipal land in Goreangab, Windhoek city. The Municipal Council of Windhoek has granted the land solely for the urban garden project and an agricultural training centre for the community.
'When I started at farm Okukuna, I knew only a few things about farming because we used to grow Mahangu (Millet) back home in Okahao. But I did not know much about growing vegetables or herbs. Farm Okukuna gave us training on making organic compost and how to grow different types of vegetables in winter and summer.'
Urban agriculture is not a novel concept. It has been established as one of the measures helping the poor and vulnerable people in urban areas cope with food scarcity and hunger by growing crops in their backyards. Urban gardening, or "urban agriculture" or "urban farming," is an umbrella term for the process of growing crops and plants of all types and varieties in an urban or peri-urban environment.
‘'I became excited as I was getting training at farm Okukuna. I started practising what I had learned with the small space in my house in the Goreangab location. I started very small, but I started slowly expanding and expanding my garden to the front side of the house. I have succeeded in growing spinach, beetroot, carrots, and herbs to feed my four children aged between 19 and 4 years old. I even harvested enough vegetables to sell to some of my neighbours at a low price.'
The pandemic also presented further problems with the reduction in employment and loss of incomes to the informal sectors resulting in adverse effects on the purchasing power of the poor and vulnerable people in communities like Goreangab.
'More of my neighbours started to ask me to show them, so I decided to visit them to help them find the right space in her yard with enough natural light and shade to start her garden.'
'Since the Covid pandemic, I could see how hunger affects my neighbours, so I took the courage to approach one woman who had so many small children. She did not have a lot of space, so I tried to show her to do urban agriculture in a different way from the way we grow mahangu in the village. I then showed her how to use old tyres to increase her vegetable garden. Since then, many people in Goreangab have come to me to learn, and I have trained them on how to build food circles and make compost. I believe this is my little way of helping to solve the problem of hunger in my community.'
The BBB urban agriculture 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 by focusing on enhancing food security and malnutrition in Namibia's urban communities.