30 september 2020
Vice Versa columnist Eva Nakato is having plans of starting urban farming in her own backyard, which she hopes to turn into a business like so many of her fellow Kampalans. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, urban farming has become a lifeline, especially for the urban poor.
With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in Uganda, one of the stringent measures put in place by the government of Uganda to minimise the spread of the disease was a nationwide lockdown. Public means of transport were restricted and the majority of workplaces were temporarily blocked following this. As a result, sources of livelihood for many came to a standstill.
For the urban poor and slum dwellers, the lockdown hit them even harder since the majority are employed in the informal sector. Meanwhile, food prices escalated drastically. ‘Hunger will kill us before corona virus does,’ lamented one of the slum dwellers. Consequently, these affected people had to think outside the box in order to survive.
Personally, after losing my day job I was hopeless for a number of days. My rent was due and I had lots of other needs to take care of. My background as a design artist enabled me to tap easily into the mask-making business. This was to be my source of livelihood for the following months.
Artist and social worker Carol Ntabadde’s love for nature drove her into supporting the ‘Let’s Go Green’ ghetto project. The project aimed at uplifting the ghetto community to go green through practising urban farming by supplying seedlings, designing small flexible urban farms and also recycling all possible waste materials for use. Crops such as beans, tomatoes, spinach, eggplants, passion fruits, bananas, onions were grown under the project.
Since a reliable food supply for the participants was now guaranteed, this project was arguably a miracle of sorts for the residents of Colombia Base in Kamwokya, one of the largest slums in the Kampala Metropolitan Area.
Ntabadde says urban farming has been of great importance to the urban poor and the slum dwellers living in confined spaces. She intimates that the ghetto community has acquired skills which they have passed onto other community members. They have been able to reduce their food expenditure on a daily basis since urban farming is less costly and affordable.
She has supported them by building connections to different farming personalities to help enhance their skills. At the same time, the project has created employment for some of them since it’s a centre for learning and training. Ntabadde has also applied for small grants, sourced donations of seedlings and equipment from well-wishers, and involved community leaders to help encourage the urban poor to practise urban farming.
Despite the many benefits, the project has experienced some really tough challenges as well. An unstable market for selling their products, financial instability, pests and diseases destroying the crops, inadequate water supply, minimum skills, climate change and soil failing to favour certain crops have been some of the notable challenges faced by the farmers in the project.
However, measures need to be employed to rectify some of these challenges faced by the urban poor farmers. Ntabadde suggests that urban farming stakeholders should lobby for urban farming to be taken up as a government initiative, and that media houses should be involved to promote and communicate a wide range of recycling and upcycling practices for global climate change.
With the spirit of unity and teamwork among these young ghetto members, development is just one step closer, for their determination and togetherness in making this project a success was priceless. Also, a constant food supply is now guaranteed to these low-income earners.
I believe that if other urban dwellers and low-income earners adopted the above practice of urban farming, they would stand to benefit a lot.
Urban farming is something I would like to try my hand at as well. Since I love my chai (tea) and food well spiced, I could start by planting some of those herbs in my backyard.
After gaining enough skills, my next step would be to increase the plant population so that my endeavour makes more commercial sense. The next thing would be to add value to my harvest especially by selling crops in ground form and packaging them properly. This will increase longevity as well as attracting a higher market price for my produce.
I’m very eager to start … you too should try it out.
In the autumn of 2020, Vice Versa publishes a series of articles on transforming African food systems to provide sufficient and healthy food to the growing population, while at the same time generating income and employment for the increasing number of young people. Our aim is to generate debate on this important topic within the Dutch international cooperation sector, running up to the parliamentary elections in March 2021.
The series is an initiative of Vice Versa in cooperation with Solidaridad, IDH Sustainable trade, Wageningen University & Research and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform and AgriProFocus, merging into the Netherlands Food Partnership this year
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