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Climate Project: Santiago Mendes Esteves

Updated: Apr 12

14, Portugal, Community Hydroponic Vertical Farming to target Dietary Inequality in the slums of Windhoek, Namibia

“The goal of this project is to reduce dietary inequality and alleviate extreme poverty in the slums of Windhoek, Namibia. This project is being developed jointly by myself and FXB. Funds have been raised for one modular vertical farming unit to be implemented in the FXB Village, Windhoek, Namibia. We are in the process of drafting a project proposal to analyse how best to move forward. 26-50 people have been impacted so far.”

Hydroponic Vertical Farming Initiative | Windhoek, Namibia | FXB International, Santiago Mendes Esteves Namibia is the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and depends largely on groundwater. Only 2% of Namibia’s land receives sufficient rainfall to grow crops. Yet, the Namibian agricultural sector accommodates for approximately 70% of the population. (1) The scarcity of water availability and the need to provide fodder/grazing material for cattle – as beef accounts for the largest share of livestock exports within Namibia – has meant that a significant share of the country’s population is nomadic. In the Namibian capital of Windhoek, over 100,000 people live in informal settlements. Moreover, 30% of the labour force is unemployed, with women and young women being the most affected - 33% and 53% respectively (for 20–24-year-olds). (2) In such informal slums, ‘access to property, basic services, education, health, social services, transport, or other public services is extremely limited or largely unavailable. Security, gender-based violence, unemployment and lack of capital to start small businesses are major concerns. In addition, development activities are scarce due to the lack of nongovernmental organisations and development agencies willing to settle in an unsafe location.’ (2) FXB International is a non-governmental organisation that has been fighting extreme poverty for over 30 years. They have developed a micro-credit system called FXB Village which uses the donation of seed capital – in lieu of loans – to allow impoverished families to achieve economic independence by receiving training in business management, financial literacy and enabling them to start income-generating activities (microenterprises). This project is a partnership between FXB International and 15-year-old climate advocate, Santiago Mendes Esteves, aimed at targeting the dietary inequality and lack of food security within the slums of Windhoek (and, eventually, various rural villages within Namibia) by establishing modular hydroponic vertical farms in the centres of such. Hydroponic vertical farming is an innovative system of food production in which crops are fed with essential nutrients as opposed to being submerged in soil. This system uses up to 96% less water than traditional farming and optimises yields without relying on pesticides. It: - Allows ‘large tracts of land to revert to the natural landscape, restoring ecosystem functions and services’; - ‘Safely and efficiently uses the organic portion of human and agricultural waste to produce energy through methane generation, and at the same time significantly reduces populations of vermin (e.g., rats, cockroaches)’; - Takes ‘advantage of abandoned and unused urban spaces’; - Breaks ‘the transmission cycle of agents of disease associated with a fecally-contaminated environment’; - Allows ‘year-round food production without loss of yields due to climate change or weather-related events’; - Creates ‘an environment that encourages sustainable urban life, promoting a state of good health for all those who choose to live in cities’. (3) By investing in locally produced hydroponic vertical farming units (Sunsail Aquafarming), powered by solar energy (Namibia Solar Solutions) that are capable of feeding 20 cows, 10 horses or 2000 chicken daily, as well as 400kg of human food per month, this project aims to combine FXB International’s pre-existing expertise in the field of micro-enterprise building with hydroponic vertical farming systems that offer a much-needed solution for extreme poverty and dietary inequality in the slums of Windhoek. Each farming unit consists of a container in which local communities (already engaged with the FXBVillage Program) will receive professional training in farm management/operation, being able to divide farm profit among them and, as such, develop financial and dietary security in an environmentally sustainable way. The total cost of establishing an operating farming unit is approximately USD 50,000. The farming units are produced in Windhoek.


(1) FXB International, “Namibia Program”, 2022. (Online: accessed 21 st January 2023) (2) Sector Brief Namibia: Agriculture, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. (Online: accessed 21 st January 2023) (3) Camille Boylan, Princeton University Undergraduate Student Climate Initiative, “The Future of Farming: Hydroponics”, 2022. (Online: accessed 21 st January 2023) Source: Sunsail Aquafarming

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