‘Enough to feed a family of four’: Kenyans are embracing urban farming amid mounting food shortages.Global expansion

On the outskirts of Kenya’s sprawling capital of Nairobi, 35-year-old scientist Nyambura Simiyu runs a farm in the backyard of a townhouse. She lives in her gated community, which is not suitable for farming, but she keeps up to 200 animals at a time and grows enough vegetables for a family of four. .

Simiyu is one of a growing number of Kenyans growing their food in cities.Elsie Chebet running organic kitchen gardens kenyasays urban agriculture has seen a dramatic increase after food supply chains were disrupted during the Covid pandemic.

Nyanbura Simiyu in front of the goat hutch and rabbit hutch. Photo: Edwin Ndeke/The Guardian

Food shortages and high prices have forced some Kenyans to return to their rural homes. Since food is cheap and land is available for most families to grow their own crops there, Simiyu stepped up its efforts in Nairobi to ensure an annual supply of vegetables and greens. meat. She now trains farmers, gardening channel on youtube.

Emmanuel Atamba is a food system expert, Route-to-Food Initiativesaid:

In 2020, the government distributed seeds and farming kits as part of the ‘Million Home Gardens’ initiative. business It is not clear how many households have been reached to increase household food security

agriculture is Kenya’s economic backbone It contributes 30% to GDP.More than half of the country’s population depends on water for their livelihood, and the number is Decreasing steadily Over the past decade, more people have entered the service and manufacturing industries.

“We are increasingly seeing a disconnect between people, the food they eat, and how that food is grown,” says Atamba.

People who grow vegetables or raise livestock in urban areas often face ridicule. This is because agriculture is widely considered a sanctuary for the country’s rural poor.

“Some people think that growing food in a town is ugly, a dirty job, and not elegant,” says Simiyu. However, urban agriculture requires significant resources and is out of reach for many Kenyans.

“It’s very expensive to do it now in terms of water, land and space costs,” says Atamba.

According to Atamba, who is also a farmer, a kitchen garden for one person only needs about 2 square meters of land, but many urban Kenyans use it, especially in the slums where most of the urban population lives. Unavailable space.

“There are clear barriers to entry for the poor, and this needs to be addressed systematically,” he says.

Nyambura Simiyu closes the rabbit hutch door in her garden in Rongai, Nairobi.
Simiyu is lucky to have space for her animals. This is a place that many urban Kenyans, especially slums, lack. Photo: Edwin Ndeke/The Guardian

In Kibera, Kenya’s largest informal settlement, the group is exploring sustainable farming options where water and space are scarce.of “hydroponics” project, Operated by the Human Needs Project and the World Food Programme, it grows food using less than a quarter of the water and space required by traditional agriculture.

But people grow their own for reasons other than access to food.a report Last year, a high level of toxicity in agricultural products was revealed and made public Food safety concerns.

Kenya still uses highly hazardous pesticides containing more than a third of the active ingredients. Banned in Europe Because of its potential chronic health effects, environmental persistence, and high toxicity to fish and bees.their use is grow significantly Over the past decade, despite the devastating effects of toxic ingredients on people’s health and the environment.

“We realized that in the next few years it was going to be very difficult to get clean food in this city,” he says, citing organic alternatives such as rabbit urine and traditional methods such as “companion planting.” Simiyu, who uses it to keep pests at bay, says.

Catherine Cunyanga, a professor of food science at the University of Nairobi, cites studies that show heavy metals and pesticide residues in fresh foods sold in retail stores and open-air markets. It’s not safe,” he said. “We are well beyond the national and international limits that are permissible.”

Nyambula Simiyu harvests spinach from her garden in Rongai, Nairobi.
Simiyu uses organic pesticide alternatives like rabbit urine, as one-third of the active ingredients in Kenyan pesticides are banned in Europe. Photo: Edwin Ndeke/The Guardian

Many farmers are not trained in how to use pesticides safely. Many have let go of their protective gear and spread it out near bodies of water. Experts say the extent of the contamination of the country’s soil, water and food is unknown.still about 3.5 million Kenyans face food insecurityfood safety is an afterthought.

In 2019, NGOs petitioned the government to ban dangerous pesticides.but the call was fulfilled violent backlash Some big players in the agricultural industry said such a move would drastically reduce food production.

“People are more concerned with access to food than whether it is safe,” says Cunyanga. Kenyan lawmakers have not made food safety a priority, and the problem is widespread around the world, she said. Africa.

With conflicts between food safety and availability likely to be drawn out, urban farming could become an increasingly important alternative for Kenyans like Simiyu who want a healthier diet. I have.

‘Enough to feed a family of four’: Kenyans are embracing urban farming amid mounting food shortages.Global expansion

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