Sustaining a Community Through Hydroponic Agriculture

By Uaueza Kanguatjivi

PALMS for Life Fund (PFLF), a New York City based non-profit working in Namibia in close partnership with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare/Division of the Marganalised communities, recently donated an Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre to the Tsumkwe community in the Otjozondjupa region of Central Namibia.

The centre is equipped with a hydroponic garden that utilises recycled water and ensures a consistent and suitable supply of vegetables.

Early Childhood Development plays a critical role in building a firm foundation for children which further aids them in their education and growth as functioning members of society.

Hydroponic agriculture is the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil. In the absence of soil, water goes to work providing nutrients, hydration and oxygen to plant life.

Hydroponic flowers, herbs and vegetables are planted in an inert growing medium and supplied with nutrient rich solutions, oxygen and water. This system fosters rapid growth, stronger yields and superior quality.

Hannah Rottman, Head of Palms for Life, said “the hydroponics agriculture technique is well adapted in countries with drought as it allows people to engage in unique agricultural practices and ensures a sustainable supply of fresh vegetables”.

Rottmann said, “PFLF’s mission is to advocate and support the creation of infrastructure that provides access to education, food, water and sanitation to vulnerable communities worldwide”.

“We operate from a basic human rights perspective because access to safe and suitable food, water, sanitation and education is a Human Rights issue”, Rottmann said.

“Palms for Life’s mission is to address the needs of the poor and hungry because it is everyone’s business if any child in this world goes to bed on a hungry stomach. It is therefore

our responsibility to ensure vulnerable people live dignified lives and ensure basic needs are met”, she said.

“This is one of the many ECD’s, Tsumke has a significant population of San people who are regarded as a marginalized group within the country. We conducted a household survey and found out that hundreds, even thousands, of children had been living without any form of childhood development.” Rottmann said.

Deputy Minister of the Marginalised Division Within the Presidency, Hon Royal /Ui/o/oo

said the ECD centre aligns with Namibia’s National Development Plans.

/Ui/o/oo said, the Division of Marginalised Communities in the Ministry is committed to addressing the educational needs of children.

He encouraged members of the public to ensure children from the vulnerable groups of San, Ovatue and Ovatjimba are enrolled at the various centres.

“In the same vein we are advocating against the practices of child labour and exploitation, as every child in Namibia has the right to an education, ensure children in your care from marginalised communities are not kept at home and farms as labourers, but are granted access to school”, /Ui/o/oo remarked.

According to NDP5, Early Childhood Development encompasses all aspects of children’s development, including cognitive, social, emotional and physical abilities”, /Ui/o/oo said.

He added that in NDP5 children in urban areas (19%) were more likely to receive ECD services than children in rural areas (9.8%).

“One of the interventions under Early Childhood Development in NDP5 is aimed at improving the provision of appropriate educational facilities, teaching-learning resources and increasing child health and education. The construction of the new centre is therefore responding appropriately to NDP5 as it is also equipped with a hydroponic garden utilising recycled water to ensure a consistent and sustainable supply of fresh water”.

/Ui/o/oo revealed the construction of the ECD centre at Tsumke cost N$ 3,000,000.00!

“PFLF is funding the construction of Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD) in selected group of communities and upgrading existing ECD centres, as necessary by following local assessments of needs, existing infrastructure, including the availability of water and child friendly sanitation in order to ensure that teaching and learning environment is improved in most ECD’s belonging to the Marginalised Communities.” /Ui/o/oo said.

Rottmann said, “The first kind of these centres was completed in 2019 in Otjinene in the Omaheke region”.

“There are currently four (4) other centres in Omusati (Ixtapa and America), Otjozondjupa (Farm Uitkoms outside Okahandja) and Kavango East (Likwaterera) Regions respectively”.

/Ui/o/oo told Confidente that these centres are near completion and will be ready for the opening of the 2023 Academic Calendar.

“Five other sites are already submitted to the organisation for the third phase of request for authorization for the distribution of supplementary food items to the marginalised communities in Omusati Region, the next construction phase will commence upon completion”, the Deputy Minister added.

/Ui/o/oo further told Confidente, Tsumke was specifically chosen for this project as priority areas are submitted by the Ministry from Division Marginalised Communities depending on the priority needs and enrolment figures for each centre.

“The division has established 96 ECD centres across 10 regions in order to provide a foundation for children from specified communities, however, most of these centres are operating under makeshift structures or even under the trees; it is therefore due to these reasons that the Ministry aims to expose different children to the same learning environment”, /Ui/o/oo said.

Rottman said,  ECD’s are in line with  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals  (UN SDGs) which aim to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.


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