In January 2012, Rooftops Canada in partnership with the Mazingira Institute hosted a youth exchange in Nairobi, Kenya. As part of our involvement in the local food and urban agriculture movement in Toronto, YUF CSA co-founders Chris Wong and Elaine Howarth were invited to represent the Toronto delegation. Two youth representatives (Tasco and Kangela) were invited from Cape Town, South Africa, 5 youth (John, James, Shadrack, Eunice, and Harrison) were invited from Nakuru, Kenya and the NACHU organization and about a dozen local Nairobi youth were invited to participate as well.
The goal of the program is for the youth (broadly defined as under 35) to share their ideas and experiences from each of our respective cities on urban agriculture and food security issues. The program began with an introduction from Mazingira Institute, the host organization for the exchange. Introductions were made, an overview of the purpose and context of the trip was made and the rest of the day was spent with introductory presentations by the majority of the participants.
The main programming got started on the second day with a visit to Ndoso Farm, a peri-urban farm run by an enthusiastic and passionate Ndungi Ngogi. At his farm, he grows a variety of vegetables in greenhouses including some of the best peppers I’ve ever tasted. He also grows other fruit, vegetables, and raises fish on his property as well.
Elaine and I gave a presentation on making compost tea, as well as using worm castings to build the soil. Ndungi does a great job of composting using a variety of methods and that is one of his secrets to the success of his garden. He also gave a presentation on another method of composting using grubs, specifically the grubs/larvae of the black soldier fly.
In the afternoon, we went to another of Ndungi’s farms – this one a livestock farm that raises chickens and pigs. It was incredible to see how healthy the animals were, especially with Ndungi using organic methods for all of his activities.
The third day was spent primarily at Mr Rabbit’s Farm. While that isn’t his actual name, it is a nickname he likes to carry around with him. Before arriving at the farm though, we made two detours. The first was to H-Garden which is located in the second largest slum area in Nairobi. At this location, one of the youth leaders Humphrey “grabbed the land” and setup a garden to work with the youth in this area. The local authorities turned a blind eye because they see his project as benefitting the community, even though they don’t have official papers for the land. It was incredible to see a number of sack gardens, as well as rabbits and pigeons being kept on a tiny piece of land.
We also had a short visit and interview with KOCH FM, a local radio station run by youth and broadcasting to just a small area in another ghetto area of Nairobi. The entire operation is run out of an repurposed shipping container, complete with an office and sound-proof studio for their broadcasting. To see this local project in action, essentially using just a computer and a microphone was a humbling experience to see how much can be done with so little.
When we finally got to Mr Rabbit’s farm, we had a tour around his property. We had a chance to see how they make their own compost, how they utilize a farming methodology called moist bed gardening, how to butcher a rabbit, enjoy sucking on fresh sugar cane, and see a larger scale rabbit operation.
Sunday, day 4, was a rest day, and a bunch of us spent some the afternoon at a local swimming pool for some much needed R&R.
On Monday, we continued our farm excursions to two local places. The focus was on value-added products and we first stopped at a local place that manufactured toys using recycled plastic. Using just two small buildings, they sort, melt, and mold recycled plastic into some really nice toys. It looked like they also had a bunch of corn growing in a back lot as well. We finished the day at Esther’s farm which is another peri-urban farm in a new suburb of Nairobi. Here, we had a chance to have a few hands-on demonstrations of how to make yogurt, how to make peanut butter (using either dry roasted peanuts or fried peanuts), and how to make mango jam. The peanut butter and mango jam were some of the best I’ve ever had! Esther has what we would consider to be a cottage industry that takes.
That’s all for this update. Look for more pictures and posts as the exchange continues.