If only all the hungry “were given the means to maintain and grow vegetables with a sack containing around 40 seedlings” (FoodFirst)

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Slums and Garden Sacks: Organic Urban Agriculture In Kenya

Posted March 24th, 2010 by Anonymous

By Christopher Penalosa

The global food crisis of 2008 demonstrated in no uncertain terms the extent of food insecurity in Africa’s over-populated cities. In Nairobi—home to Africa’s largest slum, Kibera—protests against the soaring cost of food met with police repression in May 2008. High food prices coupled with droughts put over a million Kenyans at risk of serious hunger. The problem of food insecurity has its origins in the countryside, where decades of rural development schemes—often supported by international Aid—have created an ongoing stream of peasant migrants: according to UNICEF, Kenya’s urbanizationrate has been around 6%-8% per year during the past four decades. In Nairobi, the urban population is expected to double to six million by 2025.

Dramatic population shifts from rural to urban areas stem primarily from misguided polices from International Financial Institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF. These institutions support market-based land reforms and “Green Revolution” programs that promote high-tech solutions to hunger. Land grabs for export industrial agriculture in rural areas push smallholder farmers into the cities. Without secure land rights, rural smallholders will continue to be displaced into the cities. By promoting strong ties between food producers and consumers, urban agriculture is a workable local solution that allows people to take control of their food system. Resourceful urban farmers all over the world are finding imaginative places to grow food, utilizing rooftops and vacant lots, and selling their surplus to nearby city dwellers.

The Sack Garden Model for Urban Agriculture

One successful example of urban agriculture is taking place in Nairobi slums such as Kibera, Mathare, and Huruma. In the face of pressures endemic to many urban spaces; crowding, sanitation, and land use conflicts; these slums are undergoing a transformation towards food sovereignty. The symbol of this movement is becoming well-known: a small recycled sack filled with seeds and soil. Italian NGO Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI) is helping to initiate this project by providing top soil, manure, and seedlings across slums in Nairobi. Over 1,000 households were given the means to maintain and grow vegetables with a sack containing around 40 seedlings.




Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.