Feature: Kenyan slum youth finds lifeline in organic farming amid COVID-19 shocks

Source: Xinhua| 2021-01-29 21:52:10|Editor: huaxia

NAIROBI, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Gregory Kimani's humble upbringing at a densely populated informal settlement located on the eastern fringes of the Kenyan capital Nairobi gave him free tutorials on time-honoured virtues like humility, service and benevolence.

The 26-year-old environment conservation major witnessed deprivation that is rampant in urban slums at a tender age and while in college resolved to leverage on intellectual capital and improve the livelihoods of his neighbours.

Kimani is the project coordinator for Mwengenye Lifestyle community-based organization that has been on the frontline of promoting organic farming to solve the hunger and malnutrition crisis affecting households in Nairobi's informal settlements.

"I have a long history with food insecurity having grown up in a single-parent household where managing three meals per day was a challenge," Kimani said during an interview with Xinhua on Thursday.

" Even my extended family lived with us in the same informal settlement and after graduating from University, I felt that impacting positively on the livelihoods of my community was a noble aspiration," he added.

Kimani is a founding member of the grassroots organization that has been on the frontline of providing a durable solution to the food insecurity crisis in Nairobi slums through adoption of organic farming.

"We have been motivating urban dwellers to utilize limited space at their disposal to grow crops, ensure their families are food and nutrition secure to boost their immunity during COVID-19 era," said Kimani.

His organization in 2018 established an urban agriculture resource and information centre that has become an incubation center for innovations that promote eco-friendly farming practices in Nairobi.

Kimani said the center has also been a one-stop shop for urban farmers keen to learn about new techniques of growing food crops organically in their tiny backyards.

"Some of the farmers who received our training have been able to grow crops at the balcony of their homes. They are utilizing small spaces to produce indigenous vegetables that are rich in nutrients," said Kimani.

He said that youthful peers who joined his organization have been training urban households, schools and female welfare groups how to carry out organic farming and boost food security amid COVID-related disruptions.

"We are currently helping a youth group set up kitchen gardens and grow crops for household consumption and for sale in nearby markets in order to boost their income," said Kimani.

He said that his organization has also been promoting vertical, hanging and multi-storey gardens in both low and middle-income settlements in Nairobi to boost household nutrition status.

"Other innovations we are promoting include underground irrigation system to grow crops while conserving water. We keep rabbits and kitchens that are a main source of protein in many urban households," said Kimani.

He said that plans are afoot to rear dairy goats, adding that mobilizing women and youth groups to engage in the cultivation of indigenous vegetables and medicinal herbs has boosted the nutrition and health status of families.

Kimani said that his organization has developed a training curriculum to promote understanding of urban farming among the underprivileged youth in Nairobi.

"Some of the units in our training curriculum focus on transforming the mindsets of the youth and boost their appreciation of organic farming to address food insecurity and provide them with sustainable incomes," said Kimani.

He said that Mwengenye grassroots organization has constructed about 250 gardens in both low-income and wealthier suburbs in Nairobi to promote environmentally friendly food production.

According to Kimani, 120 gardens made of gunny bags were distributed to households at the height of the pandemic to ensure they had a constant supply of vegetables, fruits and cereals.

"We have been training families how to put soil and organic manure in the bags to grow crops. It is a sustainable way of dealing with food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis," said Kimani. Enditem