"A garden in a sack in the slum By"
“A garden in a sack in the slum” By Peggy Pascal, Food security technical advisor, Solidarités and Eunice Mwende, Program coordinator for Solidarités (Kenya Office) Background Following shortages after the post election violence that hit Kenya in early 2008 and faced with soaring food prices 1 , Solidarites, a French relief NGO has implemented a “sack garden” project in Nairobi’s slums including Kibera the largest slum in Africa. According to Francis Owino Waneno, the area chief, the project has boosted food security in the slum. “People can now eat and in some cases sell their own produce and that means a lot to dwellers of this slum”, he says. The East African Magazine, June 2-8, 2008 In Nairobi, more than 60% of the population lives in the numerous slums located around the city. Kibera slum is one of the 146 slums of the Kenyan capital and the second biggest slum in Africa (after Soweto in South Africa). Around 1 million people are currently living in Kibera and the population is increasing daily. In the slum, land slides are frequent and the unemployment rate is very high. Most of the land is dedicated to housing and agricultural land remains scarce. In December 2007, Kiambiu and Kibera slums were struck by the post election violence that hit Kenya. These riots were the result of various factors compounded by the level of poverty andincreasing vulnerability. Most of the families living in the slum have recently settled there, leaving the overpopulated rural areas. During 2008, food and non food prices rose by up to 50 percent in six months. Diet changes are evident with a reduction in the composition and frequency of meals, which could lead to a rise in malnutrition and susceptibility to disease. The inhabitants of the slum have the appropriate know-how to crop vegetables. The main problem preventing the development of agriculture is the lack of land and cash to buy agricultural inputs. Objectives of the project Solidarités main strategy was based upon two major objectives: - To increase access to food using the “garden in a sack” concept. - To increase the income available for household use through the sale of vegetables from the garden in a sack. Target populations: low income populations and HIV AIDS affected populations (who need better nutrition). 2 1 The price of maize, the main staple food has increased by 100% in just a few months. 2 The HIV rate in Kenya is 6% and the disease is a major problem. At least 1.3 million people are currently living with HIV/Aids in Kenya, 65% of whom are women between the ages of 19 and 45, according NACC statistics. The project implemented by Solidarites and funded by the French government, involves planting vegetable seedlings on the sides of earth filled sacks which are placed on doorsteps. During the first phase of the program, over 11,000 beneficiary households adopted the technique and produced vegetables at their door steps. The current phase of the program targets 32,000 households, some of whom are now cropping tomatoes, onions, kale or spinach. Over 18 nursery beds have been established in the slums. Some selected community members are responsible for the management of the nursery whereas another group is in charge of training the beneficiaries. Technical elements The sacks are being prepared by the households, who have to find or buy one of those plastic bags that are very common on the market and fill it with soil. Once the bags are ready, Solidarités community mobilizers give them the seedlings. Each sack has a volume of 0.1 to 0.5 m3. Vegetables are planted at the top of the sack and on the sides thanks to small holes. On average, one single sack contains 30 to 40 seedlings of kale or spinach and 20 tomato plants. The crops that were planted (spinach, sukuma wiki (kales), tomatoes and onions) were already well known by the communities and, it would be ideal to introduce more species of vegetables such as capsicum, leafy onions, coriander and other traditional vegetables. The most appropriate crops for the bags are leafy vegetables since they keep on growing even after the leaves have been harvested. Two models of vegetable sacks have been tried out: one with a stone spine (model 1) and one with layers of stones (model 2). The model with the layers of stone is less interesting since the “planting area” is smaller than in model 1 where seedlings can be planted all around the bags. Model 1: Vertical spine made with stone to Model 2: Layers of stones facilitate the infiltration of water The table below summarizes the 4 main phases of the project with the key points and the main challenges identified. Phase 1: Preparing the Phase 2: Training and nursery bed and the community mobilization demonstration farms Key elements: The Key elements: small plots demonstration farm was were voluntarily given by crucial to show the communities to facilitate beneficiaries how to the establishment of prepare and plant in sacks nursery beds. Solidarités in practical terms. provided the seeds for Community mobilizers were planting while community also instrumental to the members under the supervision of community mobilizers ensured that the success of the program through effective communication to the communities, seedlings were watered and well taken care of before they matured for monitoring and follow up. transplanting. It takes at least three weeks for the seedlings to mature for transplanting in the sacks or kitchen gardens. What is important? For acceptance purposes, it is important to involve community members as community mobilizers. During our experience in the What is important? It is important to ensure community participation right slums, we selected community mobilizers from the same communities with from the establishment of the nursery beds. Solidarites made it clear to the help of local administration and village elders, who identified members of those who volunteered space for the nursery beds that no payments were their community who have been acting as volunteers and assisting their forth coming however they were given enough seedlings to plant and cover communities in different perspectives. As a result, our team of community the entire space of land available to them with vegetables. It is also mobilizers was composed of varied age groups (between 25 years and 80 important to explain to those offering space for the nursery beds that the years of age) and was balanced in gender. This increased the group seedlings would be distributed for free to community members who qualify as cohesiveness and the level of acceptance by their fellow communities. per the selection criteria. It is also important to ensure that the community mobilizers are adequately What is difficult? In a slum set up, it is important to plant vegetable crops paid. This means giving them a monthly salary and any other benefits that which have a short maturity period and long term benefits. Through will ensure total commitment to the program without having to engage experience, we found it challenging to crop bulb onions as they took a long themselves in other income generating activities to supplement their salary. A time to mature and even after transplanting, the beneficiaries waited for over good salary and other benefits are important to instill a deep sense of three months to harvest the onions. We have now opted for the leafy onions responsibility. which do not take long to mature. What is difficult? Political interference could make the selection of Due to the nature of the slums, the quality of the soil and water even at beneficiaries difficult. It is therefore important to ensure that the role of the nursery bed level could be a challenge. However difficult, it is important to local administration is clear and to ensure that the names given are well ensure that hygiene and good sanitation is practiced especially near the verified. seedbeds. Laboratory tests conducted on soil, irrigation water and foliar samples have shown that soils and leaves are contaminated by Escherichia coli. This is not very surprising since the sanitation system in the slum is very poor and the area around the slums has been used for defecation for years. We are currently looking for ways to decrease the contamination level. Phase 3: Preparing the bags and planting Phase 4: Monitoring the results vegetables Key elements: Monitoring the Key elements: Having communities find their progress and results of the own sacks, stones and soil helped us to program were crucial in determine those who were really motivated to establishing the impact of plant in sacks. The communities also owned vegetable production at the the process and were not entirely dependent household level. The program on Solidarités’ support. designed different monitoring tools to ensure that all data relating to What is important? In order to ensure the project were adequately ownership of the process, it is important to collected. While monitoring the progress, other external factors were encourage the beneficiaries to purchase the considered such as the global rise in food prices and their impact on the slum sacks, which are easily available and cheap dwellers. The community mobilizers played a crucial role in collecting (Kshs.10) and to find the soil and stones before receiving the seedlings. information regarding the beneficiaries using pre-designed data sheets. Providing all the inputs to the beneficiaries creates dependency and also dilutes the need to take the initiative seriously by taking care of the plants What is important? It is crucial to ensure that the community mobilizers are and ensuring their security. adequately trained in data collection and especially regarding the interpretation of information received from the beneficiaries. What is difficult? In some slums, good soil for planting is difficult to obtain. In some cases, beneficiaries had to buy their own soil to be able to What is difficult? Getting accurate information is a challenge in the slums. participate in the program. Even though this shows a sign of commitment and The slum dwellers perceive that emergency aid will only be received if the participation, it could lead to additional costs to the beneficiaries and limit the information given portrays a very difficult and dire situation. There is number of beneficiaries of the program. therefore the risk of getting exaggerated information as far as the situation in the slums is concerned. Secondly, It is difficult to trace beneficiaries for The second challenge experienced is access to water. As there are no follow up except via the community mobilizers. This is because there are no reliable water supply systems established in the slums, water has been a big numbered streets or houses in the slums. There is no formal way of tracing a challenge in the slums. Most slum dwellers purchase water from the water house except through someone who knows it physically. This makes future vendors who have no regulation in setting the price of water. Some sacks follow ups difficult and we are forced to be dependent on the community and kitchen gardens withered during the dry periods of July – November as a mobilizers. result of lack of water. Impacts Vegetables are used directly and indirectly by households to obtain food, access to cash when needed and to educate children. On average, each household increases its weekly income by 5 USD. Given the fact that in Kibera house rental costs around 6 USD/month, this additional income represents an important source of income. Families who are producing vegetables are able to prepare a full meal two to three times a week. Households who have taken up the program and have access to three or more sacks now have access to additional income generated from the sale of the vegetables. The estimated revenue generated per month is around 33 USD, which is more than the average monthly income per family. According to the impact survey implemented by Solidarités, the majority of the households earn between 31 USD and 46 USD. Income generated from planting in organic sack – Kiambiu and Kibera slums (June 2008 3 ) Sack Type of No. of No. of No. of Price Monthly Estimated Vegetable plants leaves harvests per revenue Revenue per harvested per leaf generated generated sack per plant month per day (1 USD = 64 Kshs) Sack No. 1 Kale 40 5 3 1.5 900 30 Sack No. 2 Spinach 40 5 3 1.5 900 30 Sack No. 3 Tomato 10 4 2 4 320 11 Income generated in Kshs* 2120 71 Lessons learned This approach is cheap and readily embraced by the slum communities most of whom have come to the city to look for a job and who have been practicing agriculture in rural areas. This is a self-sustaining program. During the implementation of the program, Solidarités only carried out the initial purchase of seeds and capacity building and general management of the program, the other activities were taken up by the communities and they are able to continue with minimal support. The presence of very dedicated and diverse (in culture and age) community mobilizers played a significant role in the achievement of Solidarités’ goals. They ensured that the program was well embraced by the communities. During the initiation phase of the program, Solidarités used community HIV/AIDS organizations who were active in the slums. The organizations were WOFAK, (Women Fighting Aids in Kenya) which has been active in Kibera for 10 years dealing with HIV/AIDS vulnerable people in the community and KENWA (Kenya Network of Women with AIDS). Using such organizations as the entry points 3 Interviews and data collections were done in three primary villages of Kibera and in Kiambiu village as a whole. The villages selected in Kibera were Makina, Lindi and Kisumu Ndogo. 200 questionnaires to beneficiaries of Solidarites intervention were issued out of which 183 were considered valid for further analysis of the impact of the intervention. * This information does not consider income generated from onions which were mostly grown on kitchen gardens and not sacks to allow grown of the bulb commanded respect from the beneficiaries who were previously afraid of participating in humanitarian work involving people living with HIV/AIDS. Some of our community mobilizers were volunteers in the HIV/AIDS program hence the community perception of the volunteers made our intervention easy at a time when fracas and violence were rampant in the country. Challenges to address The biggest challenges identified by the beneficiaries were the presence of pests, access to water, vegetable diseases and lack of access to pest control and the theft of vegetables. However, most of them reported that they received help from Solidarites, through spraying of infected plants. challenges 1.0% 1.7% 20.2% Non-response diseases 32.5% theft pests lack of sufficient water Others 3.8% 40.8% Conclusion People living in urban areas are particularly vulnerable to soaring food prices. The commitment to urban food production is beneficial to low-income households. Solidarités strongly believes that urban agriculture should be one of the pillars of food security strategy in coming years. When the main limiting factor is the lack of land, to have a “garden in a sack” is a great opportunity. Solidarités has extended this project to other areas in Kibera and Kiambiu and is also starting in another slum called Mathare. Moreover, following a food security assessment implemented in Juba, in southern Sudan, we have found out that the food security situation of the inhabitants of Juba was a real issue. Juba can be considered as a big slum with a very poor access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Most NGOs have their headquarters in Juba but do not work in the city. Solidarités is currently looking for funds to develop an integrated food security project in Juba with the “vegetable bags” as a main component. The garden in a sack concept was effective, simple and easily sustainable method of ensuring food security to the slum dwellers. The households were either able to make an income or save on costs that they would otherwise have incurred to buy food.