Sowing food security

Kenyan woman planting seedling crops

With informal jobs for some of Kenya’s worst-off wiped out by Covid restrictions, local partner Kenneth Ambani Buluku turned his mind to the most urgent question on people’s minds: how to put food on the table.

Knock-on effects of coronavirus

Kenneth Ambani Buluku is a pastor serving a church in Kibera, the biggest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Usually, Kenneth prepares teaching materials and teaches and mentors students, enabling them to serve effectively for the transformation of their communities for the glory of God. However, during the pandemic, while Kenneth was unable to undertake any training, he got involved with meeting a more immediate need.

During the pandemic, restrictions on movement and a curfew had a big impact on people across Kenya. “I saw many families struggling to put food on the table due to the restrictions in movement that had affected their livelihoods,” says Kenneth.

Kenyan man in mask recives packet of seeds
Kenneth Ambani Buluku (left) hands over seeds to Albert Obede, the Archbishop of the Holy Spirit Church of East Africa, who receives them on behalf of the church members and community

Kenneth and Rev Nicta Lubaale, general secretary of the Organisation of African Instituted Churches, were reflecting on the lockdown and curfew and the impact on people’s income. As Kenneth wasn’t able to train anyone at the time, he began to think how he might get involved in bolstering food security in the local community.

Many of those who work in the informal sector of the economy had been particularly badly affected. Not only had their income been taken away, people were also being left idle.

A seed of an idea

Was there a way they could build food security while also giving people something to do? They hit on the idea of providing seeds to allow local families to grow their own crops. This would help keep people busy working on their small farms as well as contribute to food production and therefore food security.

“I thought of vegetables as they are a source of nutrients for the body. The health of the aged, children and mothers could be improved as a result of consumption of fresh, home-grown local vegetables. Any surplus could be sold to provide some income to the families,” Kenneth says. 

Launching the pilot

In July 2020, Kenneth joined forces with the Organisation of African Instituted Churches, local church leaders, pastors from the Holy Spirit Church of East Africa, church members and other members of the community to launch the seed distribution project. They worked together to buy and distribute vegetable seeds and some maize for food to local families in need.

Kenyan women gather in a field, waiting
A gift that made all the difference: women from Kibera come to collect seeds

This intervention, intended to help families build their own food security, benefited over 100 poor and vulnerable families. Those who received the seeds planted them and preserved a section of their farms for seed harvesting; these harvested seeds were in turn distributed to other farmers in February this year.

Worth repeating

For many of these families, the gift of these seeds made all the difference, keeping them from idleness, malnutrition and food insecurity. Families were able to grow enough food for themselves and even had enough to sell to the community as a source of income. As vegetables are in high demand from schools, colleges and the community at large, there is no struggle in finding a market. 

With many more people interested in farming in this way, this project carries real potential for community transformation.

Published 19 July 2021

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