A Trip to Kibera’s Urban Gardens

On February 20, the re:char team went for a tour of urban gardening projects in Kibera. Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibera is home to an estimated 1 million people in a tiny geographical area of unfortunately no officially documented size. Most residents rent mud-wall homes for families of usually 4 or more people that are about 12ft x 12ft. Space within and between homes is very tight.

To give most of our readers an introduction to Kibera: there is always trash in sight, and it is usually within a few steps. There is an ever-present stench of sewage, which caused us to recall stories of “helicopter toilets” and the general problems of human sanitation that we hope innovative biochar projects can improve. Buildings in Kibera are dark and generally constructed from metal sheeting that seem very weak. And yet, despite this gloomy depiction, Kibera as we saw it is an exciting and dynamic place, full of conversation, activity and commerce. There are vegetable stands, butcheries, electronic repair shops and myriad other stands every 20 feet. People are found in the streets talking or moving onto the next errand or chore. It is a very active place.

We visited Katherine, an enterprising young woman making her living in urban agriculture. Katherine grows kale and vegetables for sale using innovative vertical farming systems.

Katherine takes old burlap or plastic grain sacks and fills them with soil. She then places a central column of stones into the bags to allow water to permeate through the soil. Katherine can grow 3-4 very large kale stalks in each sack.

By using these simple, appropriate technologies, Katherine is able to generate additional income in very challenging conditions. She also helps her neighbors and family to access nutritional food that is locally produced. We hope to help urban farmers like Katherine around the world to grow more food and sequester carbon.

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