OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Sack Gardening – Micro-farms Provide Nutrition in Kenyan Slums

Food security is a challenge in many low-income communities. Check how residents of Nairobi slums are harvesting their own food within small spaces.

Photo of Meena Kadri
8 28

Written by

A few years back I had the honour of meeting some of Nairobi's sack gardeners. Sack gardening became increasingly popular during the post-election violence in 2007/08 when food prices rose by up to 50% and access from volatile sites like Mathare to regular food sources became a challenge. A number of non-profit groups, school and self-help organisations began to promote the efficient, low-maintenance and low-cost sack gardens as a way of enhancing food security. Spinach, kale, chard, peppers, spring onions and tomatoes could be grown with relative ease for household use. Some families began selling their surplus harvest to neighbours while others grouped together to create micro-enterprises around their collective crops, including nurseries to supply the growing flock of Nairobi’s sack gardeners with seedlings.

What started as a way of improving food security has blossomed into a number of entrepreneurial ventures, driving an increased demand for fresh, local produce. Folks I met seemed proud of the independence that their doorstep gardens could provide. Many residents are rural migrants with roots in farming and are rekindling agricultural knowledge they had left behind, via their sack based micro-farms.

From my original article: Mathare’s Micro-farms and Market Gardens 

How might we inspire those in low-income communities to grow their own food? How might we popularise sack gardening in new locations? How might we share nutritional information alongside sack gardening initiatives?


Join the conversation:

Photo of David Citrin

Thank you for this post! Great example of reclamation of foodways, thank you for this posting. I am particularly interested in dietary transitions and the unfortunate shift away from traditional land cultivars and other once-grown grains. For example, in Nepal I have witnessed communities in the far northwest slowly cease growing and eating hardy mountainous grains like buckwheat, barley, millet, amaranth, red rice varieties in favor of bleached food aid rice and purchased commodities flown up or bought across the Tibetan border. To be sure, the changing family dynamics and SES of communities alongside youth movement away from previously agro-pastoral livelihoods also contributes to growing food insecurity.

I think engaging young people in food and farming is a critical source of just and self-determined livelihood, and will promote food sovereignty in the future.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Cheers for sharing your insights from Nepal. It's really awesome to have your global perspectives on this challenge, David.

View all comments