Urban migration has led to a rise of slum communities and food deserts across the world. A lack of access to arable land and low incomes has led to increasing levels of food insecurity amongst people slum communities. This problem is particularly evident in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya and the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. In an attempt to address this issue, French NGO Solidarites has been providing women with vertical gardens and the inputs they require to use them. These vertical gardens allow people to plant and grow vegetables almost anywhere. The small plots they offer provide enough space to grow vegetables such as spinach, kale, squash and many others.
While this innovation has been utilized by people all over the world, the innovation here is the support and implementation of this wonderful tool in Kibera. Many of these communities are asset poor (land and cash) and thus struggle to acquire enough food for their families. Issues surrounding inheritance customs compound this issue for women, especially female-headed households. While vertical farming won’t elevate a poor household to middle class, it will offer some security for their owners and provide them with a resource that can add to their incomes. Its low maintenance requirements mean that women can be free to pursue other activities. Governments worldwide should strongly consider supporting and subsidizing vertical gardens in urban areas as a means to supporting food security.
Two drawbacks to this project relate to water and scale. The introduction of vertical farmers in poor houses unfortunately adds another thirsty mouth in communities that may face challenges in accessing water. Being a garden, these tools require a lot of sunlight and thus an open space where they can be stored. This has lead to families placing their vertical gardens in public areas. This presents owners with having to ensure their gardens aren’t pillaged or destroyed when left unattended. That being said, a well organized community could easily overcome this by rotating caretakers.
The implementation of vertical gardens in Kibera, Kenya, has helped families improve their nutrition by growing important and often expensive vegetables. This also offers families with an opportunity to improve their incomes.
This project was identified in the article “Urban Women Grow Food in Sacks” written by Nancy Karanja.