In Kibera slums, residents have found a new way of responding to the challenge of food insecurity. In the heart of the bustling, informal settlement they are championing an unusual form of urban farming: the sack gardens of Kibera.
These urban farms consist of a series of sacks that are filled with manure, soil and small stones that enable water to drain. From the tops and sides of these sacks, often referred to as multi-storey gardens, farmers in Kibera grow kale, spinach, onions, tomatoes, vegetables and arrowroot.
The concept is a recent initiative of the National Youth Service (NYS), a government agency that promotes youth affairs through the ministry of devolution and planning. The approach is seen as a cheap and healthy solution to food insecurity and runaway unemployment in Nairobi’s slum. Kibera has thousands of sack gardens spread across 16 villages in the slum, according to Douglas Kangi, principal agricultural officer on the Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Project at the ministry of agriculture. The government plans to introduce the initiative to Kisumu and Mombasa counties.
At Kambi Maruu, one of the villages in Kibera, young farmers start their day at around 8am, in the open field where they have their sack farming project. They water the plants, weed and prune them where necessary and spray them with insecticide.
Ramadhan Abdulrahman, 25, is one of these farmers. Before being contracted by the NYS to take care of the vegetables in a local sack garden, he was unemployed. Today he earns a stipend of 6,592 shillings per month and saves up to Sh1,200 per week.