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Bountiful harvest can lead to ripple effect
by Chiponda Chimbelu

Siya Group members celebrate pearl millet harvest. Other CBA groups are hoping to replicate the group's success. (UNV/2010)Siya Group members celebrate pearl millet harvest. Other CBA groups are hoping to replicate the group's success. (UNV/2010)Siya Group Chairperson, Teodora, with the pearl millet harvest. (UNV/2010)Siya Group Chairperson, Teodora, with the pearl millet harvest. (UNV/2010)
09 September 2010

Windhoek, Namibia: As climate change becomes more eminent, it is the vulnerable who are most affected. One of the worst affected areas is Namibia – the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Climate change projections for Namibia forecast increased aridity and variable rainfall. In a developing country with the world’s highest income disparity, this poses a risk to those most vulnerable: women, the elderly, children and people living with HIV/AIDS.

The yields for Namibia’s small scale farmers are arguably the lowest in the world. This is attributed to the dry climate and poor soils. But there is hope. The UNDP-GEF Community Based Adaptation (CBA) programme is working towards increasing the resilience of the communities to the effects of climate change. This CBA is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) Strategic Priority on Adaptation (SPA) like other programmes in nine other countries around the world.

Among more than ten other CBA-funded groups in Namibia is the Siya group, which is based in one of the Namibia’s driest areas, Kavango. It became part of the CBA pilot programme, which UNV also supports, in 2009.

“The biggest challenges for the Siya group members are food security and poverty,” says Marie Johansson from Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions.

The Siya group has 32 women and one man. Two thirds are from female headed households, and the household food security in the area is next to zero after September when households have consumed the small yields of crop.
The programme introduced a distinct method of conservation agriculture, the CONTILL, to the region. Furthermore, it has multifocal areas on adaptation, ranging from water harvesting to energy efficient stoves, said UNV volunteer Shifa Sion. Also, crop rotation and other methods that improve soil nutrition and food security, respectively, are being introduced.

The project is already yielding results. In June this year, the first harvest for pearl millet increased from an average of 70kg per hectare to 570kg. Because pearl millet is the staple food in Namibia, the group decided to consume it themselves.

“The Siya group generated cash incomes from their maize harvest, and they are planning to sell cooking oil they extract from the sunflower harvest,” Marie said.
But the success of the Siya Group does not end there.

“It has inspired the surrounding community in Siya to form new Self Help Groups and become active in developing their community,” Marie explains.

The groups are working together to create, amongst others, ideas on community banking somewhat based on the Grameen Bank model, so that the small scale farmers can have access to microcredit loans. 

In addition, the project has increased volunteerism and solidarity amongst the group members.

“All the group members are volunteering their time to the project and each member contributes 18 hours a week,” says Marie.

“Volunteerism has allowed the group members to create their own food security and incomes while giving them the possibility to gain skills that they can share with the community,” she added.

The success is bound to have a ripple effect in Kavango and other regions in Namibia.

“The lesson learned here, has inspired the replication of other Self Help Groups to be formed in the neighbouring village or communities in the same region,” Shifa said. 

One Self Help Group (SHG) has already been formed in the neighbouring village, Kapako, with 25 members. The Kavango Regional Council is encouraging communities to create SHGs as a means of taking charge of their own development, savings and lending.

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)