Young, promising ecologist and CST student Reinhold Mangundu has been running and coordinating an initiative of the Progress Namibia Project which seeks to improve the food systems of the Sonderwater Community.

The Sonderwater Local Food Systems Initiative is a project that assists a small, informal community of more than 200 people living under very insecure tenure. The little-known settlement is located behind Shandumbala in Windhoek’s Katutura neighbourhood.

Their homes are predominantly built from plastic bags and metal scraps salvaged from waste, and there are no basic services such as electricity, water or sanitation. The project’s efforts, and the facilitation of consultations between community members, the constituency office and the City of Windhoek, led to the provision of four toilets and clean water at three water points in 2018.

Mangundu observed that much more still needed to be done to ensure healthy lives and the well-being of the community. This is when he started setting up community home gardens at Sonderwater to help improve food security and health, and build resilience, trust and unity in the community.

“We are entering a time of unimaginable shocks and uncertainty. How we respond and how we relate and support each other is what will make all the difference. In the current system, there is the knee-jerk reaction of many people to withdraw themselves and have a ‘me-first’ mentality, resulting in many people being abandoned.

“The more this happens, the more social anxiety will develop into desperation, resentment, and finally, violence. If more of us have the perspective that we are all in this together, we will build greater resilience and be able to transition more peacefully,” he says. In the last three months, with donations of seedlings and help from the Eloolo Permaculture Initiative, Mangundu has successfully set up home-based gardens at Sonderwater.

Papaya and other fruit trees, and a variety of vegetable seedlings are now growing at the settlement, and the programme will also help establish permaculture practices and new gardens for different households in future. Mangundu envisions a small working hub of sorts, which makes use of the myriad of skills of the people from Sonderwater.

He has organised to get an old shipping container, which will be used as a workshop for making pallet furniture, welding rocket stoves and solar ovens. These are all contingent on the success of the gardens and the availability of resources from the Progress Namibia Team and those willing to provide a helping hand.

The hope is that the Sonderwater community becomes a livable and sustainable pilot community that can be successfully used to replicate the project in other communities in Namibia in the long run.

The Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (News) Youth Group will today join Mangundu in celebrating World Food Day.

The group plans to identify a household to support and, together with the residents, will set up a vegetable garden.

This is part of News’ approach to support communities in Namibia towards more sustainable practices for people and environmental well-being. News supports the idea of self-growing food as it reduces environmental impacts from the long chains of industrial food production. Encouraging and supporting home gardens, particularly in vulnerable communities, can be an entry point for reconnecting people to living soils and nature at large, the organisation says. Mangundu is the 2020 recipient of the Youth Visionary Award from the Global Peace Initiative for Women.

*This article was contributed by the Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society and first appeared in The Namibian on 15 October 2020.