FAO Report: Urban Farming
The key focus of the project was to address food insecurity through innovative, climate resilient and replicable agricultural techniques that maximized use of limited space and scarce water to produce maximum yields. This agriculture project employed technologies that helped targeted farmers in Turkana mitigate and adapt to climate change leading to improved production and reduced vulnerability and food insecurity. The aim was to ensure that there was food production all through the year despite climatic conditions. Target communities are categorized in to the following:
· Schools: Junior farmers
· Refugee settlements.
· Host Community
The Ruben Centre was charged with the responsibility of implementing the following:
Output 1: Innovative kitchen gardening technologies introduced to Kalobeyei Refugee settlement and its environs
Output 2: Vegetable drying enterprises established in Kalobeyei Settlement
Output 3: Project activities effectively coordinated and monitored
The approach to project implementation is in three phases: site capability assessment, training: farmer field school model, on ground /field implementation. The project involved implementation of climate and weather specific innovative farming techniques that would lead to maximum yield of farm produce. Such techniques included: sunken beds, wick irrigation, container gardens/ vertical sack gardens and zai pit.
Kitchen gardening in schools by JFFLS groups was appreciated as a means of engaging young farmers and their facilitators in learning and practical application of knowledge and skills for food production. The initiative was meant to empower learners to improve their food and income security through application of numerous dry land farming technologies.
The initial target was 30 refugees with wick vegetables gardens. Achieved was 40 refugees (F.23 M. 17). In Kalobeyei village 1, each beneficiary was provided with wick garden measuring 2mx4m with capacity of 75 litres of water sustaining the garden for 2 weeks. Due to water challenge and space, some of the beneficiaries shared the gardens of 1mx5m each holding 30 liters of water enough for 2 weeks. Types of kitchen gardens established were: Wick irrigation gardens, sunken bed, zai pit. All the gardens are at mature stage whereby beneficiaries are expected to begin harvesting for household and for market. Topics covered were: Crop production techniques, water harvesting, pest and disease management and general routine farm management practices.
The main crop varieties planted were: spinach, kales, okra, jute mallow, spider plant, eggplant, capsicum, cow peace, nightshade, amaranths, and watermelon. Majority of the beneficiaries are harvesting and selling their vegetables. It was experimentally established that some vegetable varieties such as Tomato Rio and Onion were not doing well. This is largely attributed to the context.
Numbers of host community groups with wick vegetable gardens are 5 with 150 beneficiaries. The types of kitchen gardens established were: wick irrigation, zai pit garden, organophonic, vertical gardens & sunken/moist bed. Due to harsh weather conditions in Kakuma and Kalobeyei especially during dry periods of the year, such gardens need be fitted with shade nets. Topics delivered to beneficiaries included: Crop production, water harvesting, seeds propagation, pest and disease management and soil amendment. This also included group organization and dynamics for management of conflicts arising in the group projects. FAO Office in Kakuma and Department of Agriculture in Turkana West is part of monitoring and backstopping of farmers benefiting from community gardens.
Limited sources of water. This is a huge challenge however we tried to mitigate it by training on water harvesting and recycling
Conflicting needs due to limited resources: water for farming vs. water for consumption
Lack of or poor water harvesting techniques. This is more of a long term approach because there is potential of building dams in the area to harvest water during rainy seasons.
Successes and learnings:
The farming technologies capitalized on recycling and using climate specific techniques and this led improved outcomes. Inappropriate land and crop management ultimately results in a progressive degradation of production base, continued poor performance of social and economic systems and perpetuation of poverty spiral. Such outcomes included:
More people practicing farming through the established gardens
Improved income through sale of surplus produce
Improved uptake of balanced diet and this will translate to improved nutrition status of the targeted beneficiaries
Land use diversity: The technologies aimed at showcasing maximum utilization of space and achieving maximum productivity. Involved diversification of production systems- technologies in relation to landscape and its resilience and capacity to absorb shocks and or respond to opportunities
The farmer field school technique proved very effective
A key learning was on the importance to evaluate input, techniques and technology used in agricultural production in view of the ecosystem, natural resources and environment.