Kitchen gardens have become a necessity as a way to supplement quality and affordable food to families especially during these harsh economic times of the Coronavirus scourge when incomes are not guaranteed because of the lockdown.
To most people, the term kitchen garden conjures an image of planting vegetables and herbs on a small piece of land in their backyard. This however, is not feasible to urban dwellers who live in storied buildings. The good news though is that there is an option for everyone.
JKUAT students from the Horticulture Students Association (HoSA) have been installing kitchen gardens to those interested around the country, an exercise whose demand has been accelerated by the harsh economic conditions brought about by the closure of businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Led by their Chairman Joash Walumoli, a Fourth year student in the department of Horticulture and Food Security, the students have traversed different parts of the country to set up the kitchen gardens.
Moli, as he is popularly referred to says “there are about 15 types of kitchen garden structures to choose from. Although occasionally we also create the renowned ground kitchen garden, the most common requests for urban areas include: containerized gardens which use recycled containers, wooden box, capillary wick and vertical PVC gardens. These are most popular because one is able to utilize the height in a tiny space such as a balcony (an 18 feet pipe can hold up to 25 plants). The sack garden is the least popular because it requires a lot of soil and water.”
The gardens grow a variety of vegetables and herbs such as Indigenous vegetables (terere, mrenda, managu, kunde), Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Celery, Basil, Thyme, and Spring Onions, among others. It is also possible to grow strawberries. The vegetables are usually ready for harvest in a month’s time and seedlings can be used by the farmers for a maximum period of nine months.
The kitchen gardens can also adapt to any environment (even dry) as the student’s advice their clients on the different methods of watering the plants depending on one’s needs. For instance, busy people can choose either the drip irrigation or capillary wick method for faster watering of the plants. In addition, one is taught on how to prepare these foods.
The students also engage in other related services such as constructing full or mini greenhouses, installation of drip lines, diagnoses of crop diseases, seedlings production among others. The costing of all their services depends on the materials required, family size, space available, and the intention of the small-scale farmer.
Moli says they started this venture as a way of giving back to society. Since the project’s inception in June 2017, as part of their coursework practical, the students have been teaching various farmers at the JKUAT HoSA demonstration farm for free on different subjects. This has been under the guidance of their patron Prof. John Wesonga.
The group also engages in youth empowerment. They have done this through the setting up of containerized gardens in Kibera slums where they have taught many, on how to create such gardens in order to meet the diverse, distributed demands in the country. The students also visit children’s homes to donate food and set up kitchen gardens.
Moli says there are many advantages for starting kitchen gardens. He advises people to embrace such gardens as they do not only mitigate food insecurity, but also help prevent non communicable diseases such as cancer which can be acquired through eating vegetables grown on soils with heavy metals.