Nelly Bassily | October 13, 2008
In an article for the East African newspaper, author Dagi Kimani describes the sights and sounds of urban agriculture in Nairobi:
Those riverbanks which are not clogged with shanties are teeming with a dazzling variety of vegetables at various stages of maturity. In the crowded shanties themselves, where space is at a premium, residents have come up with ingenious ways of growing greens, stuffing a sack full of soil and growing kales and spinach from multiple holes punched in its sides. Even in relatively upmarket suburbs, it is not uncommon to awake to the sound of a cock crowing. A resident hen can meet the family’s egg needs.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 800,000 people practice urban agriculture, producing about 15 per cent of the world’s food. This urban greening continues as more people flock to cities and food prices rise.
Kibera is an informal settlement within Nairobi, the largest in Africa. A new project in Kibera demonstrates the transformative effect of urban agriculture on both the landscape and the farmers.
Hussein Hassan tends to a crop of spinach. Earlier this year, his youth group was involved in riots that followed Kenya’s December 2007 election. But today, the youth have other things to occupy their time. They have planted a vegetable garden on a quarter-acre of land that used to serve as a garbage dump. Mr. Hassan says that, previously, no one could pass through this area. It was filled with refuse. Now, cabbage, tomatoes, spinach, kale, pumpkin, and sunflowers thrive.
Recently, the group harvested their first cabbage crop. The harvest provides both food and income for the youth.
Augustine Oramisi is chairman of the Kibera Youth Initiative for Community Development, an umbrella body for self-help groups in Kibera. He says that disease, crime, and unemployment are rampant. A garden seemed like a good solution. It provides an outlet for youth who choose to reform, while cleaning and greening neglected land.
The garden has become a pilot project which teaches students how to carry our land reclamation. Mr. Oramisi hopes to duplicate this type of project in other parts of Kibera, replacing refuse dumps with vegetable patches.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on urban agriculture