Cover Story “onearth” Magazine – Urban Farming in Africa
The Constant Gardeners – Confronting climate change and poverty, a new crop of city farmers comes of age in Africa
By Jocelyn C. Zuckerman
November 23, 2011
But as Njenga is happy to show me, they’re finding new ways to cope. We meet up with Catherine Wangui, a friendly 25-year-old sporting a newsboy cap, who tells us how, about four years ago, representatives of the French nongovernmental organization Solidarités International, which does emergency relief and reconstruction work around the world, came here and distributed old flour sacks to some of the women. They explained how to fill them with soil and rocks before poking holes in the sides and pushing in seeds.
OnEarth magazine’s Jocelyn C. Zuckerman traveled to Kenya and Ghana with photographer Antonio Bolfo to see how residents of some of Africa’s largest and poorest cities are turning to urban agriculture in the face of poverty and drought.
Wangui, who grew up in Kibera, stops in front of three of these “vertical gardens” — four-foot-tall sacks plumped out with dirt and sprouting gangly tendrils of kale and spinach. Her 5-year-old daughter, Grace, who is playing nearby in a neat dress and braids, now gets fresh vegetables every day, says Wangui, who sells some of what she grows at a little wooden kiosk that she runs. Njenga also introduces us to people who, in spaces barely the size of closets, are raising chickens and profiting from them. Not that everyone is suddenly thriving; one young woman tells us how her garden sacks have enabled her to buy sugar and cooking oil, but hits me up nonetheless for some spare shillings — to the serious chagrin of Njenga.