Feature: Kitchen gardening spreads in Kenya amid gov't boost

By UnreguserYang Zhen

NAIROBI, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Used tyres, plastic containers, gunny bags and cement bags are some of the places Kenyans are growing crops as citizens embrace kitchen gardening technologies to produce food.

While vegetables like collard greens, spinach and indigenous ones are the main crops grown, some households are also growing onions and tomatoes as well as fruits like strawberries and beetroots.

The kitchen gardens have become popular particularly in urban areas, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which made getting fresh produce harder for many families due to restrictions.

A 90kg gunny bag filled with soil can accommodate up to 50 plants. And the fact that crops grown in the sacks or tyres do not need plenty of water makes the gardens easier to manage, especially in urban areas.

"I embraced the practice four months ago after seeing a story on television. I loved the idea and decided to implement it," Victoria Selima, a government worker, said recently.

She grows the crops in used tyres filled with sand, pebbles and chicken manure. The gardens are placed in her backyard.

Since she farmed collard greens, she has harvested from the 30 crops several times.

But Selima is not doing the farming blindly, she has attended free online classes on making and management of kitchen gardens offered by the Ministry of Agriculture.

"What I have are tyre gardens but I have also learnt how to make drip gardens, micro gardens, moist-bed gardens and multi-story gardens," she said.

The free online tutorials also cover pest and disease management, empowering households to produce their own food with ease.

Annie Nyaga, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, noted that the government is targeting to have about million households across the east African nation embrace the gardens.

This, according to her, will boost food supply, change lifestyles and enable families to have healthy diets.

"Localising and domesticating food production at individual households will not only guarantee better nutrition but also boost food security," she said.

According to her, the kitchen garden technologies utilize readily available materials like used plastics and tyres thus contributing to environmental conservation.

Increased uptake of the gardens has created business for some individuals, who have come up with ready-made gardens for urban dwellers which go for an average of 2,500 shillings (about 23 U.S. dollars).

Kimplanters is one of the outlets selling the gardens in Nairobi, with farmers buying them getting a variety of vegetable seedlings.

It is the same case for Farming Wonder, another dealer in Nairobi, which makes and sells cone gardens together with the seedlings.

Business boomed for the private farms particularly at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya when citizens adhered to stay-at-home measures.

"I have some space at my home but rather than plant the vegetables on the ground, I decided to buy the kitchen gardens because of ease in management. With them, you can replace the soil easily," said Byrum Kinyua, a homeowner in Ruiru on the outskirts of Nairobi.

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