On his balcony at his home in Kitengela on the outskirts of Nairobi, Stanley Mureithi has six small sacks where he grows his vegetables.
The sacks are filled with soil, some pebbles and animal manure and holes have been made on the side, where the plants grow.
Currently, they host spinach, which the father of three hopes to start harvesting in two weeks’ time.
“I produce enough for my family,” said Mureithi in a recent interview. “Each sack hosts four plants, which makes it 24, more than what my family needs,” he added.
Mureithi mainly grows spinach and sukuma wiki (collard greens) but in the past he has experimented with traditional vegetables like spider plant and amaranth.
Mureithi, a businessman in the town, is among citizens in the east African nation who have embraced innovative urban farming methods to produce food.
Besides growing crops, mainly vegetables, in sack gardens, families are also farming in old tyres and plastic containers and on racks using hydroponics method.
Initially, in the capital Nairobi and most of other towns, a majority of those who had embraced urban farming were the poor in slums.
However, over the years, the middle and upper class families have taken up urban farming.
But while the poor are growing the crops to be assured of steady food supply amid low incomes, for the middle and the upper class families, it all has to do with being able to get quality food.
“From my garden, I am assured of fresh vegetables grown organically. Some of the produce in the market is grown in places where one cannot be guaranteed of safe food,” said Mureithi.
Under hydroponics farming, there is no use of soil making it ideal for urban growing of crops because of associated cleanliness.
All a farmer has to do is have special containers placed on a rack where he places water mixed with minerals for the crops to grow.
Chicken and goats are the most popular animals kept in urban areas in the east African nation.
To keep the animals amid increased urbanization, Kenyans have adopted innovative structures that include storey houses.
“After constructing my water tank, which I had raised two-and-half-meters from the ground, I wondered what to do with the space below. An idea came and I constructed a chicken house there. It is two years since I last bought chicken for slaughter or eggs,” said Jennipher Ochieng, an auditor who works with the government and lives in Utawala on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro-consultancy, noted that with shrinking land sizes both in towns and rural areas, Kenyans have no choice but to embrace urban farming.
“There have been concerted efforts to inform people that they don’t need huge land to produce food. Most people in places like Nairobi are using used tyres, basins and tins to grow food,” said Macharia, who works with farmers in Kitengela.
She teaches urban farmers how to maximize on land usage by using the square-foot garden method, another popular urban farming technology.
In this method, the garden is made of wood placed on the sides, loam soil and tinny pebbles to allow water penetrate the soil.
They are mixed in the ration of 3:1:1 for good results. One can grow up to five different crops on a tiny piece of land by dividing it in meter squares.
“As Kenyans, we have no reason not to grow food regardless of where we live. We have the knowledge which we should use,” she said. Enditem