Okakarara farmer, Arnold Hindjou (54, has been described as a hero for using his gardening prowess to help feed his community.
After realising how most people were struggling to get basic food for good nutrition, Hindjou decided in 2014 to start a community garden to help meet the fresh food needs of the people in his neighbourhood.
With the help of five community members and donations from companies such as the Social Security Commission, (which recently donated N$15,000 cash for the expansion of the garden project) he spearheaded the creation of an operation, roughly the size of two soccer fields on his family’s farm, providing healthy vegetables not only for neighbours in need, but the country at large.
Whenever he has a good harvest, the father of three gives contributions to schools, charity organisations and the elderly who can no longer take care of themselves, through the Hitatoke Feeding and Support Welfare Programme, an organisation he started.
“Making a difference in people’s lives is something that I am very passionate about. It makes me very happy whenever I put a smile on someone’s face because of my work. It is very fulfilling. I want to help our elders because I can see that they are suffering. The pension they receive is just not enough and in most cases, they have extra mouths to feed,” he said.
Hindjou left his job of 15 years at the United Nations in Windhoek to venture into farming fulltime.
“I have always enjoyed working with my hands and using the land to produce food. It is the hard work ethic that was instilled in me from a young age. I do not mind working; it actually relieves stress because the environment is calming. I can be in the field for a whole day,” he explained.
As a child growing up in Okakarara, he spent weeks during school holidays at a family farm discovering the joy of gardening and eating vegetables straight from the fields.
With no formal training in farming except for the skills he acquired growing up; the former driver is living his dream.
According to him, over one third of the people in his community live in poverty. That, combined with a lack of healthy food options, has serious health implications.
“I have realised that there are HIV patients who take their pills without food in their stomachs. It is not right. There are also children who go to school hungry which makes it difficult for them to concentrate on an empty belly,” he said.
To launch the vegetable garden, Hindjou used his severance package to buy farm implements and build water infrastructure. His original idea was to use irrigation on the farm land so that he would be able to plough all year round.
Hindjou grows maize, cabbages, onions, beetroot, tomatoes and carrots, but he has dreams to expand and add sunflowers in future.
“If I can get more money I would like to expand my project so that I can help more people,” he said, adding that he would also like to teach other people how to plant vegetables.
“Each person must learn how to plant their own vegetables because the cost of living is getting expensive every day,” he said.
The past year’s drought was a big challenge for him, but he managed to sustain his Good Samaritan duties.
Currently, he is getting water from a river nearby his farm, but he has hopes to drill a borehole in order to start pumping water from there.
“I need irrigation pipes and water tanks to make it easier to water plants. I am also looking for someone to donate an old tractor to help with the ploughing because at the moment I am doing everything by hand,” he said.
He sells some of his produce to The Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), where he gets money to buy seeds and pay his workers.
According to Okakarara Secondary School School Administrator, Eben Karokohe, Hindjou’s donation is really making a difference at the school.
“Mr Hindjou has made a huge difference at the school and in the community at large as he helps not only the school, but other people also. He donates cabbages, carrots and tomatoes which we use to make soup for the learners,” she said.