African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services

Vertical Bag Gardening for Healthy Diets in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

Advances in technology are key to the future of agriculture as farmers strive to feed the world with limited natural resources. Kenya has in the recent past faced recurrent food security and nutrition challenges resulting to rocketing food prices, high input prices, prolonged and severe drought and high inflation rate. The impact of COVID-19 on overall economy would equally affect the agricultural and food security, especially in the understanding that a majority of farmers are over the age of 57.

In this regard, there will be an adverse impact on food security and nutrition as the pandemic has coincided with the commencement of the long rains, which marks the planting season for Kenya’s staple foods. The pandemic also comes at the heels of a drought that ravaged the Country in 2019 and a continued locust invasion.

The Forum for Agriculture Advisory services Kenya (KeFAAS)’ transformative agenda is pegged on its objectives, and one of the niche is to identify and upscale best practices and innovations in extension service delivery. The forum has continued to disseminate technologies that are cost effective and easily adaptable to farmers.

The Forum is working closely with member organizations that have come up with innovative measures to promote biodiversity in crop production. The organizations are working with smallholder farmers to improve agro-biodiversity conservation. One of the member organization; Seed Savers Network (SSN) manages over 50,000+ farmers across Kenya in various programs which include ecological agriculture, capacity building and advocacy for food sovereignty.

While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for supporting immune systems. Amongst other adoptable technologies that the forum has considered beneficial to smallholder farmers is practicing the kitchen garden technique. It has proven to be sufficient evidence and has demonstrated immune response, which had been weakened by inadequate nutrition.  

A kitchen garden is a plot around the homestead where different crops are grown throughout the year, mainly for household consumption. In addition, small livestock such as poultry, fish and rabbits are kept to provide cheap source of animal protein. The garden is also known as nutrition garden.

A multi storey garden
A Sack kitchen Garden

 A vertical bag gardening is an easy and a unique technique found in kitchen garden. Anyone including those living in urban setup can take advantage and utilize the vertical space. It’s simple and cheap to build. The technology allows growing of crops in large, bag-gardens, enabling farmers to grow a variety of vegetables. The suitable vegetables to grow are dania, sukuma wiki, capsicum, eggplants, spinach, tomatoes, okra and amaranthas.

The best kind of soil is loam. If your farm has black clay soil or sandy soil, buy red soil and manure. Once you have mixed the soil and manure in equal proportion, put some water but not too much. Buy vegetable seeds, then plant them in seedbed tray. After a few weeks, transplant them to the sacks. Some sacks have 100 holes. For each hole put one seedling to avoid overcrowding.

If you are planning to have more than one sack in your backyard, the space between every bag should be one metre. Each sack can accommodate from herbs, salad to courgettes.

The vertical bag can make a big difference in the quality and pleasure of our food.  Adding vegetables is important to provide important vitamins and minerals that help boost our immunity.

As the country has basic infrastructure, extension and advisory services can act as a spring board to propel the new revolution in technologies, lets allow technology to continue to make a positive contribution in alleviating the current global crisis.

In conclusion, farmers are willing and ready to adopt any beneficial innovation but the same should be backed by extension providers. There is need for widespread sensitization of farmers and public at large on the importance healthy diets especially during the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.