Home gardening saves Marsabit residents from malnutrition

Home gardening

Kaltuma Ahmed waters her kales at Odda village on April 29, 2021.

Photo credit: Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group

Fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to come by in Marsabit County, partly because of their prohibitive cost.

This has for years denied locals control over their own food security, as many hardly incorporate fresh vegetables or fruits in their diet, leading to rising cases of nutrient deficiency and related illnesses.

The predominant foodstuffs are animal proteins, which some researchers have blamed for high incidence of renal disease in the pastoralist region.

Ms Ije Guyo, 72, from Odda location, is among many in Moyale sub-county who would ordinarily be reliant on food aid.

Despite her ill health, which has at times affected her ability to work on her farm, she and the four family members for whom she is the sole breadwinner can afford a smile, as she can still put food on the table.

She practises mixed farming on her quarter-acre backyard garden, where she grows maize, beans, green grams, pigeon peas and cowpeas.

“If only our people could shift their focus to mixed farming, we’d not be depending on food aid,” Ms Guyo said.

She recalls that before venturing into home gardening, she often found herself at her wits’ end. Many are the times she lacked food for her family, unlike today when she has options even during lean seasons.

Ms Kaltuma Ahmed, 60, said growing food crops has always been a major challenge for Marsabit County residents, regardless of their income or education level.

The problem, she explains, is gradually being solved after the few owners of arable land in the county began growing crops.

Ije Guyo tills her home garden at Odda village on April 29, 2021. She gets income from her farm.

Photo credit: Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group

Welthungerhilfe Vegetable Gardening Programme

Thanks to Welthungerhilfe Vegetable Gardening Programme, Marsabit County residents are now able to grow vegetables for family consumption and for sale.

The programme has benefited 750 households who received Sh2,216,650 to improve their food security.

 The gardening initiative is designed to inspire a love for healthy farming and eating, especially in this time when the economy has been ravaged by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like many other people in Marsabit County, Ms Ahmed and her family have suffered as a result of crop failure caused by erratic rainfall and frequent drought.

The programme has helped bolster resilience through provision of food security and livelihood assistance.

Last year, Ms Ahmed was among 3,750 people (750 households) who received Sh822,900 for tools and another Sh1,393,750 for seeds.

Through the Welthungerhilfe programme, the beneficiaries were trained in organic farming and are currently implementing the skills they gained on their home gardens.

They have been able to harvest the recommended servings of fresh vegetables for more than  5,000 beneficiaries in their families.

Since November 2020, more than 3,000 women in Marsabit County have been running group gardens using water from boreholes sank of Welthungerhilfe Project KEN-1198-20.

Vegetable seedlings

The women received agricultural tools, vegetable seedlings, harsh-weather-resistant seeds of green grams, beans, pigeon peas, cowpeas as well as training in soil, water, pest and disease management.

The initiative has enabled them to produce more than 100,000 kilogrammes of vegetables, which is enough food to feed each household for one-and-a-half months.

The women sold the surplus in various markets in Moyale, earning at least Sh9 million to purchase additional seeds and other household needs.

In an interview, Ms Ahmed revealed she has been selling her kales, spinach and cowpeas for at least Sh4,000 a month, which translates to a gross income of Sh48,000 yearly.

“Since we ventured into the gardening project, we’ve learned it has more advantages as compared to livestock keeping, which forces our people to constantly migrate with animals, thus denying our children the opportunity to continue with their education,” Ms Ahmed said.

The beneficiaries can now afford a variety of nutritious meals daily.

The home-gardening initiative has also strengthened friendship and family ties in the region.

They, however, do not have enough boreholes to cater for their farming, domestic and livestock use. They appealed to development partners to help them drill more boreholes.