Kenya – Bag an urban farm
Members of the Brickstone self-help group at their urban farming demonstration plot in Mathare, Nairobi. Photo by Salla Himberg/IRIN
Bag a farm
By IRIN: Humanitarian news and analysis.
A project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
NAIROBI, 18 February 2010
Faced with high food prices, low income and barely a patch of arable land, hundreds of residents of Nairobi’s densely populated slums have adopted a novel form of intensive agriculture: a farm in a sack.
Ex-convict John King’ori is hoping the project, run by Italian NGO COOPI, will help him go straight after eight years behind bars for a violent robbery.
King’ori chairs the Juja Road Self-Help Group, whose 76 members, also mostly former prisoners, are among the 1,000 households in Mathare and Huruma hoping their sacks will provide a sustainable source of vegetables such as kale, spinach, capsicum and onions.
“We can plant over 40 seedlings in each sack; each household is responsible for watering and maintaining their sack. We hope the vegetables will be ready for consumption in a few weeks’ time,” said King’ori at a demonstration plot. COOPI fenced the plot, improved water storage and provided the top soil, sand, manure and seedlings.
“The aim of the urban farming project is to empower the people to have better food purchasing power,” its manager, Claudio Torres, told IRIN.
“We contracted an agronomist to train the beneficiaries of the six bases on the soil content and ratio, management of the sacks and how they could undertake the urban farming in a sustainable manner,” he said. “I believe that such projects encourage the interest of other groups, such as banks, to invest in these people, thus enriching their life in general.”
Kale seedlings planted in a sack by urban farmers in Mathare, a slum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Photo by Salla Himberg/IRIN
Simon Kokoyo, director of Ongoza Njia – a network of at least 150 community-based-organizations – told IRIN most of the groups working with COOPI on the urban farming project were identified through the network.
“When ready for consumption, a sack containing vegetables such as sukuma wiki [kale], spinach and capsicum can feed one household for at least two months,” Kokoyo said. “Right now water is the biggest challenge for this project… sometimes the water is scarce and this can be a problem.”