Achieving food security, income generation, healthy living, and environmental awareness in Nairobi, Kenya
It is early morning in the outskirts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. A group of three young people are working in a field, using hoes to remove plastic bags and other solid waste from the soil in preparation for crop planting.
Together with other youth, they are raising seedbeds of vegetables such as kale, cabbage, spinach, carrots, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and other commonly consumed vegetables in Kenya. The seedlings will later be transferred to gardens and irrigated for several weeks before the vegetables are supplied to clients in households and restaurants within Nairobi.
The trio are Mastercard Foundation Scholars, selected for their academic talent, social consciousness, and leadership qualities. Mutoni Shadadi, from Rwanda, and her colleagues Laetitia Mukungu and Jacquiline Maina, from Kenya, are pursuing their studies in agricultural sciences at EARTH University in Costa Rica. Together, they formed One Urban Garden, a social venture that gives people an opportunity to engage in the food production process, enhance the farm-to-table value chain, and demonstrate self-sustenance on a small piece of land available.
One Urban Garden will provide fresh vegetables to the clients, acting as a training centre and an incubator for job opportunities involving youth. One Urban Garden aims to provide youth with training in agriculture and agribusiness. The social venture envisions achieving food security, income generation, a healthy lifestyle and environmental awareness-raising among urban dwellers in Nairobi.
“We envision One Urban Garden as a hive of production and service provision. We are planning to start with vegetable production, which will include kale, peppers, and spinach and be readily available for household consumption. The second phase of production will be the introduction of rabbit farming and greenhouse production mainly targeting restaurants. Once the centre is established, six youth will undergo a 21-week training program and they will be in direct contact with our clients as consultants” said Shadadi.
Expected to be fully operational by April 2019, One Urban Garden will first identify the farmers and provide training to those that need it. The Scholars are currently looking for partners and available land in Nairobi and investing much time in studying other similar models, especially from other developing countries. To serve a larger clientele in Nairobi, One Urban Garden will create several farms in different locations.
“We plan to move in phases and our target for the first phase is to have 25 farmers as our base, as well as a couple of restaurants. As variety is one of our selling points, the prices will vary depending on demand and we plan to make the prices more affordable as we grow. We estimate that farmers will pay 50 dollars for the training each year, and we hope that one day we might take on a big project from a hotel or institution. We are also considering the option of installment payments,” said Laetitia.
One Urban Garden won the Resolution Social Venture Challenge in 2018, a competition that rewards compelling leadership and promising social ventures led by youth. These young leaders earned a fellowship that includes seed funding, mentorship, and access to a network of young global change-makers to pursue impactful projects in their communities. A collaboration between the Mastercard Foundation and The Resolution Project, the Resolution Social Venture Challenge provides a pathway to action for socially responsible young leaders who want to create change that matters in their communities.
Shadadi, Laetitia, and Jacquiline want to use urban farming to motivate African youth who think farming is a dirty job and only meant for people living in rural areas.
“It feels great being a Resolution Social Venture Challenge winner because it proves to me that we have the potential to contribute to change in the world. Being a Mastercard Foundation Scholar makes me feel like a winner because I get a chance to accomplish my dreams and also share them with my community as I give back,” said Shadadi.
Jacquiline said she is overjoyed and is very proud of her team.
“We have started working on the business strategy and sometimes that gets a bit overwhelming, but the teamwork is great and I learn more each passing day. I am also very grateful for this opportunity.”
Laetitia said that being a Resolution Social Venture Challenge winner is both a blessing and a challenge to keep pushing until One Urban Garden starts making a difference in the lives of Nairobians.
“I am thankful to the Mastercard Foundation because it not only gave me the opportunity to pursue my career but also to fulfill my interests and goals, and expand my network.”