Recently, people becoming more health conscious and some urban dwellers are seeking alternatives to grow organic crops in sacks
Although Kenya is still predominantly rural, it is urbanizing rapidly. Today, many people, especially the youth, are forced to move to cities in search of greener pastures and better job opportunities. This is evidenced by endless traffic jams and scarcity of housing, leading to congestion.
The rural-urban migration has not only led to high cost of food, but also to scarcity. The reason being the old generation who are left in the rural areas are not able to plant enough to ensure the country is food sufficient.
In other cases, there is a high likelihood of urban dwellers consuming vegetables grown using liquid slurry from sewers. Other farmers are also cutting corners and growing crops using banned harmful chemicals. This, according to studies, exposes consumers to many negative health effects and chronic diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular among others.
However, with most people becoming more health conscious, the demand for nutritious, safe, healthy and sustainably produced food is growing by minute. This has led to the adoption of urban agriculture, where some city residents are growing crops with short maturity periods and long-term benefits. Others are rearing animals such as chicken, rabbits and goats for meat and milk.
In most cases, urban agriculture is done through sack gardening, where vegetables such as spinach, kales, onions, coriander and capsicum are grown in a bag filled with soil. The most appropriate crops are leafy vegetables given that they can be harvested many times per growing season.
The objective of urban farming is to empower individuals to have superior food purchasing power. The sack gardens are also estimated to save money ordinarily spent to buy vegetables to cater for other pressing needs. With the current economic climate, urban farming could also be a way of generating income as families can have adequate produce to feed themselves and sell the surplus to their neighbours.
Recently, urban farming has been on the rise in Kenya especially due to support form national and international organizations, which term it as a good way of solving food insecurity. They include solidarities- a French relief non-governmental organization and the Nairobi Food Security, Agriculture and Livestock Forum [NEFSALF].
How it works
To increase productivity, farmers should fill the sacks with equal proportions of soil and manure. Obtaining quality soil for planting is important. Other inputs such as fertilizers may also be added, but this depends on the farmer’s preference. The soil-manure mixture should be changed after one year usage.
At the centre, there should be a column of stones that allows water to drain to all parts of the sack. This allows crops to grow from the top as well as the sides.
A strict watering regime should be adopted. In the beginning, the sack should be watered with 30 litres of water daily. After a few days, watering should be reduced to twenty litres a day, twice a day, and three days per week. Understanding the irrigation requirements of plants is important as it helps to keep the soil moist while avoiding excessive watering.
Cultivating in sacks has numerous advantages. To start with, farmers do not need huge tracks of lands as the bags occupy a small space. They can be placed on the balcony, rooftops, or on the door steps, making them convenient for any urban dweller – the affluent in suburbs and the poor in slums.
Furthermore, it requires minimal water for irrigation, while no technical knowhow is needed. The equipment used is also cheap and simple to obtain. For instance, farmers can use readily available sacks, buckets, or water containers.
Urban agriculture and in particular sack farming not only makes food affordable and available, it also improves health in the essence that farmers grow plants organically. By avoiding the use of harmful chemicals that have become rampant among some farmers, urban farming practice is significant in meeting the dietary requirements of city dwellers.
In fact, for a long time, experts have been warning of highly contaminated vegetables in the open markets. For instance, a joint study carried out by Strathmore University and the University of Nairobi revealed that most vegetables and fruits sold in Kenya comprise a combination of heavy metals and harmful pesticides that surpass safety levels.
This exposes consumers to hazardous diseases such as cancer, kidney and liver damage, and heart problems among others. However, the sides effects are felt when the vegetable is consumed for a long time.
However, with the garden in a sack technique, urban dwellers can manage their health by producing organically grown crops by avoiding the use of pesticides, herbicides, or the application of synthetic fertilizers.
Therefore, the technology can enhance nutritious urban food production by generating micronutrient rich vegetables that are chemical free. Besides, it guarantees the availability of minerals and vitamins vital for proper functioning of the immune system.
In a nutshell, city dwellers should engage in urban farming due to its many health benefits, besides helping them cope with the rising cost of food and the hard economic times.