Women in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya are creating food security; an undertaking that might seem impossible.
These settlements consist of narrow, winding dirt paths with very little (if any) space for planting a garden.
Spaces in the settlements where small plots could be planted are typically in areas that flood once or twice a year.
However, the women in two of the city’s informal settlements (Mukuru and Lucky Summer) are creating innovative microgardens using stacked tires, plastic bottles and blue jeans!
Creating vegetable towers instead of horizontal plots saves space on the ground, and blue jeans serve well as planters when propped up like a scarecrow filled with soil.
Many vegetables can grow vertically, including tomatoes, kale, lettuce, peas, cucumbers, squash and passion fruit.
With support from development practitioners, the women were able to create enough microgardens to support their families and train other women to do the same.
What seems like a small economic activity done for subsistence is transforming lives and livelihoods in the settlements in a number of ways:
- Settlements are becoming greener, which fosters a sense of life and well-being.
- Families’ dietary diversity is improving. With earnings as low as $1.50/day, a diet of chapati (flatbread) and water is now supplemented with fresh kale or tomatoes.
- Women are taking control of their lives and that of their families.
- Women are feeling empowered and set the example for their children and neighbors.
Recommendations for practitioners?
The World Bank reports 53.6 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans lived in slums as of 2018.
Extreme poverty continued to increase in 2019, and 71 million Africans have been pushed deeper into poverty as a result of COVID-19.
The Borgen Project reports 61.7 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans are living in slums as of 2020. So what are we waiting for?
We can start engaging with women where they are, support their ingenuity and innovation and build programs to reach out to women — specifically those in urban informal settlements.
What’s more, we can make these programs fun. Why not call it blue-jean microfarming?
Since 2012, I have seen women take control of their lives using whatever means they have. Using vegetable towers instead of horizontal plots saves space on the ground.
Women are ready to take on the challenges of agriculture in small spaces and unlikely locations. As practitioners, we must be ready to take on these challenges too.
Source: Angela Pashayan, Agrilinks
Photo: An old pair of jeans being used as a microgarden for growing food.