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Sack Farming in KenyaAs of 2015, 153 million African citizens reported being impacted by food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a state of living where one is unable or has limited access to obtain consistent, nutritionally valued food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Current Issues in Africa

The average per capita income of sub-Saharan African is approximately three times lower than that of the rest of the world. One of the main sources of income in Africa is agriculture which can easily be impacted by the quality of soil, a stable water source, temperature and use of fertilizer.

That being said, in areas such as Kenya, 42 percent of the population (44 million people) live below the poverty line. Agriculture is one of the top sources of income and a major boon to the nation’s economy. In fact, it gives work to 70 percent of the workforce and contributes to 25 percent of Kenya’s annual gross domestic product.

Kibera, Nairobi, one of Kenya’s largest slums, suffers from a lack of resources such as water, land space and labor. With a consistent rising population (4.1 percent annually in Nairobi), more food is needed to sustain life. An upcoming technique to combat this problem, being implemented not only in Kenya but in surrounding nations such as Uganda, is sack farming.

Combating Food Scarcity with Sack Farming

Sack farming is the process of utilizing ordinary scrap sacks as the foundation for producing crops such as potatoes, carrots and spinach. By implementing sack farming in Kenya, food insecurity throughout the country can be tackled. All that is needed for this form of planting is the sack, manure, soil, small stones for drainage and the desired seeds.

Beginning with the necessary equipment, sacks of any size and texture can be used, from burlap encasings to plastic bags. Fertilizer can be made from composted food and waste. As for labor, the younger communities in Kenya have stepped up to take responsibility.

Effects of Sack Farming in Kenya

Depending on the size of the sacks, one sack has the ability to grow up to 45 seedlings. In terms of income, if a household is able to afford three sacks with 30 seedlings each, the production would be substantial. This would increase the household’s income, therefore increasing the ability to purchase other products ranging from electricity to eggs and milk.

Sack farming in Kenya has the ability to produce crops such as spinach, lettuce, beets, arugula, potatoes, carrots and onions. Not only does this impact the economy, but families will finally be able to have access to a stable food source. This means fewer chances of developing nutritional deficiencies, especially in younger children.

Sack farming in Kenya is a more convenient and realistic way of feeding one’s family and community, especially when living in a rural or slum area. The process is an inexpensive, simple way to produce nutritious foods, combating the issue of food insecurity in areas throughout Africa.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

urban agriculture
Latin America is the most urban region in the world. But from Cuba to Mexico to Argentina, issues of food insecurity and urban poverty persist. Several factors contribute to agricultural instability in Latin America. Climate change is affecting crop yields, and urban sprawl has pushed farmland further from cities, into areas with low soil fertility. Additionally, many Latin American countries are shifting their production energy from agriculture to tourism ventures, which means that food imports are now exceeding exports.

A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations examines the progress made in cities pursuing urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) policies. The study surveys 23 countries and 110 cities throughout Latin America, revealing the enormous benefits that urban farming has for city-dwelling populations.

UPA gives poor households access to nutritious foods, generates jobs and extra income, provides fresh local food to city populations, creates more green space within urban landscapes and stimulates local economic production.

Poverty in modern-day Latin America has as much to do with hunger as with obesity. Non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some forms of cancer, have become enormous health threats and financial burdens for Latin America. In fact, these “lifestyle” diseases kill more people than infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis in every region except sub-Saharan Africa.

The root of this troubling phenomenon lies in the scarcity and high cost of nutritious food options, which denies the poorest segments of society access to a healthy lifestyle. In Latin America, urban farming is breaking down these barriers and bringing fresh, local foods into impoverished homes.

UPA’s potential can be seen in Havana’s 97 organoponic gardens, which use new agricultural technologies involving organic substrates in the face of seed, pesticide and fertilizer shortages. Today, 90,000 residents of Havana practice UPA, bringing sustenance to a population long harassed by food crises and rationing.

Cubans began planting food wherever they could find space after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Economic mayhem ensued, and fertilizer and pesticides were nowhere to be found on the island. Out of necessity, Cubans built small urban gardens and, with strong government support, the practice was transformed from a grassroots response to food insecurity into a concrete national priority.

Although many Latin American countries practice urban agriculture, only half of the 23 countries surveyed in the FAO report have national policies explicitly promoting UPA. Graeme Thomas, author of the report, states, “Where the sector has strong governmental support from national to local level… it has a far greater impact in terms of improving urban food security and contributing to people’s livelihoods and local economic development.”

Leaders in Latin America would do well to invest in the development of UPA initiatives. Urban agriculture has notable health, economic and social benefits as it grants impoverished households access to nutritious, local fruits and vegetables, encourages local economic development and places food sovereignty into the hands of the people who most desperately need nourishment.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: FAO, Christian Science Monitor
Photo: City Farmer News