My mum grew her vegetables in a large rural farm in the Central highlands of Kenya, but I now have to innovate ways of having fresh vegetables in my small residence in Nairobi City. My land lord only allows ‘flowers’ in a small backyard. I have managed to convince him that vegetables can be flowers too!
Really? No new resources are required, just a few minutes to water your vegetables, creativity and watch them as they grow. I use all the space in my backyard, staircase and window sills.
How? Get all your old, containers, broken pots, old sacks and flower pots into your backyard and every empty space in your compound. Fill them with good farm soil. Collect from the neighbourhood dried plant material to use as mulch. Direct your kitchen waste water to a large container to use for watering the plants.
Mix the soil with organic manure in the ratio 1:1. Buy or borrow from neighbours, but in future, you should compost your own manure in the backyard using your own biodegradable waste. Leave it for some days as you decide what to plant. Visit the food market to see what they have and don’t have. Consider your favourite vegetables that are also easy to grow. Buy seedlings or seeds from trusted suppliers and plant or sow them. Mulch your gardens with the dried plant material. It conserves water, reduces weeds, and protects plants from harsh conditions.
Improvise two cans to be your watering cans by making holes on one and use them to water the gardens daily. Weekly, put your potted plants outside to get adequate sunlight.
Flowers planted in your gardens make your project colourful, and attract biodiversity to your household like the butterflies, birds, bees and many others.
Within weeks, all your vegetables and flowers will be growing all over your backyard, and around your house! Only harvest what you need for a day!
Your family will enjoy fresh salads prepared from your backyard! It will be a live learning tool for you that will change your way of thinking about food production, and will make you desire to be more innovative to improve on such simple projects! The simple gardening is also an exciting time for you to learn how to identify weeds, pests and diseases that will be attacking your gardens.
Next? You need to call up your neighbouring friends and share with them the new innovation in your backyard so that they can also try it at their homes. Request your teachers and parents to invite the agricultural extension officer to visit your gardens.
Challenges? Innovations can only be fascinating, if daily, there are new challenges, and lessons to learn from trying to solve them. These include pests that can damage your plants. You can stop them by planting repellent vegetables like the onions, the chilli and Rosemary plants. Ash, when mixed with water is a perfect natural pesticide.
Farming without hurting animals? Yes! Birds will prey on your garden! How will you deal with them?
Why do this? This simple project will improve the health and nutrition of your family. In your own small ways you are contributing to achievement of Earth Charter Principles and millennium development goals on food, education, environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. You are also acquiring as you work in your gardens, life skills on food production and learning new things from the environment that enrich your class work and future. Is this not a sustainable way to live?