The Rafiki Community-Based Organisation in Nairobi Kenya successfully applied for a $2,000 Permafund grant in early 2023 to support their Rafiki Urban Farming program.
Their community initiative is being implemented in Viwandani informal settlements in the city to promote sustainable and resilient food production systems by applying permaculture ethics and principles.
The program was initiated to address food insecurity, improve nutrition, poverty and environmental degradation in the community. By implementing permaculture practices, the program seeks to empower the local community to grow their food, reduce their dependence on external food sources and improve their overall well-being.
Since its inception, the Rafiki Urban Farming program has made significant progress in various aspects. Firstly, the program has successfully mobilised and engaged the community in the establishment and maintenance of urban farms. Through awareness campaigns and capacity-building workshops, community members have been trained on permaculture and organic farming techniques and sustainable resource management.
As a result of these efforts, a considerable number of urban farms have been established across Viwandani informal settlements. These farms have not only provided a source of nutritious food but have also served as spaces for community cohesion and skill-sharing.
The program has facilitated the formation of farmers’ groups where members collaborate, exchange knowledge, and support each other in implementing permaculture practices. Moreover, the program has successfully reached its initial target of establishing 50 individual and communal permaculture gardens within the community. These gardens are owned by residents to ensure widespread access to fresh produce. As a result, more than 50 individuals now have direct access to nutritious food from their gardens, reducing their reliance on expensive market purchases.
The current status of the Rafiki Urban Farming program is highly encouraging, achieving several notable accomplishments. Firstly, the program has significantly increased access to fresh and nutritious produce for the community members, with a diverse range of crops and herbs being cultivated. This has positively impacted food security and improved the overall health and well-being of the residents, particularly vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.
Plus the program has empowered community members by providing valuable knowledge and skills in permaculture and sustainable farming practices. This has led to increased self-reliance, as farmers can now grow their food, make their compost and reduce reliance on external sources. Additionally, the program has created income-generating opportunities through surplus produce sales, contributing to poverty alleviation and economic empowerment within the community.
Furthermore, the program has raised awareness about the importance of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. Through community events, workshops, and educational materials, the program has disseminated information on permaculture ethics and principles, leading to a broader understanding and appreciation for sustainable practices. The program has also forged partnerships with local schools, enabling the integration of permaculture into the curriculum and fostering a culture of sustainability among the younger generation.
● Lack of access to quality organic inputs, such as compost and organic fertilisers. Participants are encouraged to compost their organic waste and share it with others, creating a decentralized composting network.
● Limited space so innovative solutions adopted such as vertical gardening, rooftop farming and re-purposing small, unused spaces.
● The knowledge and skills gap has been addressed by conducting regular training sessions covering permaculture principles, organic farming techniques, soil management, pest control, and crop rotation
● Climate change and water scarcity: Limited amount of water available for irrigation. Viwandani, like many other urban areas, is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including erratic rainfall patterns and water scarcity. These climatic conditions pose challenges for urban farming, particularly in maintaining adequate water supply for irrigation. To address this, the program focused on water conservation and management strategies such as rainwater harvesting and water recycling (kitchen water and bathing water). By implementing these measures, the program has reduced water wastage and ensured efficient water use in urban farms.
● Community Engagement and Ownership: Initially, there was resistance and scepticism among some community members regarding the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of the program. To overcome this challenge, the program emphasised community engagement and participation. Regular community meetings, dialogue sessions, and participatory decision-making processes were conducted to involve the community in program planning and implementation. By fostering a sense of ownership and active participation, the program gained community support and commitment, leading to the success and sustainability of the urban farms.
Scaling Up and Replication: Given the success and impact of the program in Viwandani, it is recommended to consider scaling up the initiative to other sub-villages of Viwandani informal settlements within the region. This could be achieved through collaboration and continuity of partnership and supporting other local organisations with similar objectives and goals to replicate the program’s model and share best practices. By expanding the program’s reach, more communities can benefit from permaculture education and information, sustainable urban farming practices, improving food security and promoting resilience.
Strengthening Partnerships: Continual collaboration with local organisations, government agencies and donors is essential to ensure the availability of necessary resources and support. Strengthening existing partnerships and establishing new ones will enhance the program’s capacity to overcome challenges related to resource constraints, access to inputs, and funding. This could be achieved through regular coordination meetings, joint fundraising efforts and knowledge-sharing platforms.
Training and Capacity Building: Continuous training and capacity-building programs for farmers and community members should be prioritised. These programs should focus on advanced permaculture techniques, composting, organic pest management, and soil conservation. Providing access to training resources, workshops, and mentoring will ensure that farmers have the necessary skills and knowledge to maintain productive and sustainable urban farms.
Education and Awareness: Continued efforts to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation should be carried out. This could involve conducting educational campaigns in schools, organizing community events, and disseminating information through various media channels. By educating the broader community about the benefits and practices of permaculture, the program can encourage more individuals to adopt sustainable farming methods and contribute to a healthier and greener environment.
Monitoring and Evaluation: Implementing a robust monitoring and evaluation system is crucial for tracking the program’s progress, identifying areas for improvement, and measuring its impact. Regular assessments of the urban farms’ productivity, environmental sustainability, and community well-being will provide valuable feedback to inform program adjustments and ensure its long-term success.
The way forward
The way forward for the Rafiki Urban Farming program in Viwandani Informal Settlement involves a strategic approach to sustain and expand the program’s impact.
Consolidate and Strengthen Existing Farms: It is crucial to ensure the continued success and productivity of established urban farms. This involves providing ongoing support to farmers, including access to resources, technical guidance and mentorship. Regular monitoring and evaluation should be conducted to identify areas for improvement and provide targeted assistance where needed. By consolidating the existing farms, the program can maintain its sustainability and maximise its impact.
Expand the Program’s Reach: Building on the success achieved in Viwandani, the program should aim to expand its reach to other informal settlements within the region. This can be done by conducting community needs assessments and identifying potential partner organizations or community leaders who can champion the program in new locations. Engaging with local stakeholders and tailoring the program to meet the specific needs and challenges of each community will be crucial for successful replication and expansion.
Foster Knowledge Exchange and Networking: Creating platforms for knowledge exchange and networking among farmers, experts, and stakeholders is essential for continuous learning and innovation. This can be achieved through regular community meetings, workshops, and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. Encouraging the formation of networks or associations among urban farmers will facilitate the sharing of best practices, challenges, and solutions, fostering a supportive and collaborative environment.
Enhance Value Addition and Market Access: Exploring opportunities for value addition and market access can contribute to the economic sustainability of the program and the farmers involved. This can involve training farmers in post-harvest handling techniques, food processing, and marketing strategies. Collaborating with local markets, restaurants, or food cooperatives to establish direct links between farmers and consumers will ensure fair and sustainable trade relationships.
Secure Long-term Funding: Securing adequate and sustainable funding is crucial to sustain the program’s activities and ensure its long-term impact. The program should explore diverse funding sources, including government grants, corporate social responsibility initiatives, philanthropic organisations, and crowdfunding platforms. Developing a comprehensive fundraising strategy and cultivating partnerships with donors and investors who share the program’s vision will provide the financial stability needed to continue and expand the program
Many thanks to the Rafiki Community-Based Organisation for this report. .
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