The urban upgrading initiative, championed in the country by the National Youth Service (NYS), has seen several agricultural demonstration sites erected in Nairobi’s informal settlements. This has had the effect of encouraging the growing urban population to embrace creative ways of farming in a bid to bridge the country’s food deficit.
The programme, which is targeting youths aged between 15 and 35 years, has seen many people in Mathare, Kibera, Mukuru and Korogocho slums acquire various life skills-with creative farming being most prominent.
In order to inculcate urban farming skills in local residents, NYS has set up a demonstration centre in each village, where locals learn various techniques including the construction of vertical sack gardens, low cost green houses and other innovative ways of using minimum land space to grow food. A demonstration centre in Mathare’s Mabatini village, for instance, has inspired locals into growing vegetables like kales, onions and coriander in sacks at the doorsteps of their iron sheet houses measuring not more than 10X10 metres. This, is not only helping them supplement their low daily wages, which range between Sh100-300 ($1-3) but it is also making them access nutritious fresh vegetables.
The initiative comes on the backdrop of a recent study by Index Mundi, which indicates that the country’s food deficit stands at 154 kilocalories per person per day. A person requires 2000-2500 kilocalories of food per day. The study blamed the high rural to urban migration for the country’s low food production. The report shows that rural urban migration is growing at 4.36 per cent annually in Kenya with strong youths aged between 14-35 years making up to 90 per cent of the data.
This means that, rich agricultural land in rural areas, which currently contributes up to 80 per cent of the country’s food, is left to the aging generation, as the youth scramble for the few white-collar job opportunities in the city. According to the study, majority of the youth who make it to the city are primary school or secondary school leavers or drop outs, most of who end up in informal settlements, where the rents are affordable.
The NYS agricultural projects, according to Stanley Musoga-an agricultural expert who heads the Mathare project, aim at helping the youth understand the importance of farming to the country’s economy. Musoga explained that skills offered are aimed at motivating young people to rethink the negative perception they have on agriculture and make a positive decision that will see them participate in producing food.
‘’We are making them see the value of agriculture,’’ said Musoga, while explaining that if a demonstration centre at Mabatini measuring 30×20 metres can produce enough kale to feed several households in the area, it means that given access to the hundreds of idle pieces of land in the country, the youth left upcountry can produce more.
He added that if everyone fully participates in food production, the country will seal its deficit and even have surplus for export.
Recent statistics by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 805 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, suffer from chronic undernourishment. Sub Sahara Africa has an undernourishment prevalence rate of 23.8 per cent, more than double the global rate which stands at 11.3 per cent.
Kenya has a population of at least 45m people. With an average Kenyan consuming 98 kilograms of maize but last year, it means the country needs to produce at least 4.4m tonnes of corn to satisfy its population. Last year however, the country produced 3.2m tonnes according to data by National Cereals and Produce Board, indicating a deficit of 1.2m tonnes.