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City folk embrace urban farming techniques for food sufficiency

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- At the backyard of his house in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, Susan Atume has a 20-meter by two-meter garden where she grows every vegetable she needs.

Divided into four-meter portions, the garden hosts cabbages, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and cow peas (kunde).

She has installed a drip irrigation system on the garden, which supplies water to the various crops every morning and evening.

She harvests from the garden plenty enough to feed her family of three.

"This is where all my vegetables come from.

"If I need tomatoes, they are here.

"If I need onions, I just pick them same as cabbages," she told Xinhua recently.

The four-meter portions host 12 cabbage plants because the crop needs huge space, 40 onion plants, 16 tomato plants and 30 kunde plants.

"I get surplus from my garden and I am assured of quality, that is the beauty with this farming technology," said Atume.

The businessperson is among an increasing number of city residents who are using the urban farming technology known as square-foot garden to grow food for subsistence and even commercial purposes.

The gardens are not only guaranteeing families quality good but also making them food sufficiency.

"I learnt the technology through our women group.

"We visited an agriculture training centre in Kiambu and were taken through the steps of making the garden," she said.

The garden is made of wood placed on the sides, loam soil and tinny pebbles to allow water penetrate the soil.

They are mixed in the ration of 3:1:1 for good results, said Atume.

The women clothes seller has been using the garden for the last one-and-a-half years, rotating the crops on the portions to curb pests and boost soil fertility.

"I have made great savings thanks to this garden.

"I don’t know the price of vegetables in the market currently because I don’t buy," she said, noting 15 members of her group who live

in different parts of Nairobi have the gardens.

University worker William Mogire similarly uses the garden to grow crops for commercial purposes on his eighth-acre in Kahawa Sukari in Nairobi.

"I have made 10 square gardens on the land each hosting at least two crops from cabbages to capsicum and traditional vegetables.

"I embraced the method because it is economical in terms of pest management, weeding, fertilizer application and water use," he said.

The method has enabled him to easily rotate the crops for pest management and harvest in plenty all-year round.

"Through this method, I am able to easily calculate every cent I use because I know each garden hosts how many crops per square meter.

"I get up to 400 U.S. dollars per square that host cabbages," he said.

He noted that he starts his farming by seeking market, and once he gets, it is only then that he plants crops on the portions.

Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer, noted that square-foot gardens are among the best ways to farm high value crops.

"High-value are crops that mature faster in about three months and fetch good prices in the market.

"For instance lettuce and capsicum," he noted.

The gardens are good for space utilization in urban areas where land is limited, according to Moina.

"Kenyans are embracing the gardens in urban areas and even in rural areas where people are seeking modern farming methods for higher incomes," he said.

He observed that the gardens are well-suited for urban areas because many people don’t have a lot of time available to weed, water and maintain a vegetable garden due to fast-life in urban areas.

"Square-foot gardening is therefore an efficient gardening technique.

"Others include sack gardening, which is also best-suited in urban areas," he said.



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