Kibera will soon be food secure, thanks to two programmes by the World Food Programme Innovation Office and the Human Needs Project organization. Hydroponics 2 Grow, abbreviated as H2Grow and Empowerment in Action (EMPACT) are aimed at improving the living standards of the nearby populace by not only giving them access to healthy yet affordable food and clean water but also equipping the youth with relevant digital skills to use in making a living working online jobs. Situated at the Kibera town centre and the adjacent Olympic Primary and Secondary Schools, the two projects have illustrated that urban farming if properly implemented, could be the bridge between poverty and food security in cities across the world.
At Olympic High School on whose farm the H2Grow project farm has been set up, the neatly arranged rows of 4-layer hydroponic structures support healthy-looking Sukumawiki (kales) and Spinach. This initiative by the WFP Innovation Office uses locally adapted, low-tech, and affordable material to implement hydroponic farming. Hydroponics consume up to 90% less water and require 75% less space than conventional farming methods. This is very effective in urban settlements such as Kibera, where land and water are scarce commodities. This innovative style of farming also allows for year-round food production affording the nearby Olympic Primary and Secondary schools, as well as the Kibera community access to healthy farm produce throughout the year.
More importantly, H2Grow is creating a financially sustainable path to scale up hydroponic farming in urban food production through the use of asset-based loans. These loans are financed using a blend of private capital and grant funding. By using the asset-based loan model, WFP is looking to mobilize private capital from impact investors, development banks or individual investors.
“This approach will widen the pool of funds available for the initiative, allowing us to reach more families, as well as support the initiative’s long-term sustainability.” Said Federico Naccarato, WFP’s Head of Innovation.
The 2 programmes though conceptualized at the onset of COVID-19, recently attracted the attention of the nation after internationally acclaimed painter and illustrator, Reggie Khumalo, who also doubles up as WFP’s High-Level-Supporter and Ambassador, embarked on a five-nation east Africa tour, with Kenya being his first stop.
His visit to Kenya has brought to light the impact that the World Food Programme, the Ministry of Agriculture and The Human Needs Project Organization have jointly had on the lives of more than 250,000 residents of the slum located in the heart of the city.
The tour he says, is a journey through which he hopes to honour both his commitment to spreading the spirit of Ubuntu, giving back to communities and further enriching his storytelling by showcasing the abundance on the continent through the medium of visual art.
The African artist, known for his arduous expeditions across the continent on his motorbike, has lived with various communities in the past and managed to create different forms of art. The art is then shared with audiences across the globe through exhibitions in cities including London, New York, and Paris, partly to the benefit of these communities.
“I am first and foremost an African. For me, the continent has a special resonance that comes through in an incredible generosity. Africans have an incomparable spirit and richness and those feed not only my soul and my art, but also my natural journeying,” says Reggie in part.
At the Kibera Town Center where the EMPACT programme has been implemented, residents can now access clean water, a restaurant, an affordable Laundromat and on the topmost floor, a training center, a library and a music studio are laid out. These amenities provide quality services at reasonably subsidized rates and even allow a payment plan for the beneficiaries who more often than not, may not afford to make a one-off to payment for the services offered.
“To date more than 500 youth have been trained, 52 per cent being female and of that number 60% have been able to earn an income after completion of the training” explains Liz Aduda, HNP’s Operations Director. She further adds that graduates get to earn an average of 1.8 dollars per hour within 6 months of graduation.
Reggie on his part acclaims the programme as a model that can be replicated all over the world and applauds the implementation team for truly demonstrating what Ubuntu is about.
“Visiting centres like this reminds me how African communities come together for purpose and begs the question why are we not doing enough for each other. For me, I am tired of hearing of us as Africans waiting for help to come, what I am seeing here in Kibera is one way we can meet that help halfway or even three-quarter way in.” Reggie continues.
This visit comes ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) which will be hosted by the Government of Egypt from 7-18th November this year, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.