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How gardens are helping food insecurity in Kenya

With the spread of Covid-19 worldwide, food availability and affordability has become an important and pressing issue across nations worldwide. In Kenya, the pandemic has worsened an already challenging year for food insecurity.

Kenya has had recurring food crises throughout the years, and additionally this year it saw a devastating locust invasion and excessive rainfalls that created significant food production deficits.

The sobering reality is that even before the pandemic, 14.5 million people lacked basic food security and suffered regularly with the effects of poor nutrition. People dealing with food insecurity confront issues from not being able to afford enough food, not getting enough nutritional diversity, to being undernourished.

Many families were already struggling to acquire basic food necessities, and the situation has worsened with job losses, closure of markets, and constraints on transportation and movement. These pandemic induced issues have increased food scarcity that has affected nearly one-third of the country’s population.

Who is most affected?

The arid regions of Kenya are the hardest hit, and these areas account for nearly 80% of the country’s land. These regions are known for high temperatures and inconsistent rainfall, an issue for its rain-dependent agriculture. When the rains fail to come, crop yields are low and that means higher food prices.

In the bustling urban areas of Kenya, people are not shielded from the difficulties in food supply chains and production. People heading out to the markets are seeing the sharp price increase on staples like maize, wheat, and milk, making them simply inaccessible to many families.

Whether in dry regions or urban settings, children are always the most vulnerable to hunger and food issues. 29% of children in rural areas and 20% living in cities show signs of stunted growth, a key sign of nutritional deficiencies. Without access to adequate and varied food sources, children suffer from malnutrition resulting in problems with physical and mental well-being. Children attend school hungry and struggle with attention and performance.

Gardening as a lifeline

With reduced food availability and affordability, gardening projects in communities and schools can serve as lifelines for families that struggle to obtain food through regular food supply channels. Members of the community and students have access to the space needed to grow fresh vegetables. Providing nutrition education has been shown to help improve the quality of life and diet alike.

The benefits of community and school-based gardening projects are far and wide, ranging from helping individuals with physical health to increased happiness, reduced stress, and positively contributing to the environment.

For many, undertaking a gardening project can seem like a daunting task due to a lack of knowledge and related expenses. Programs like ‘Nancy’s Gardens’ work with children in both school and community settings to provide them with the knowledge and tools to start vegetable gardens, taking them through the steps from planting to harvesting. This education helps children experience the positive effects of gardening and equips them with sustainable tools.

While the issues of food security and hunger remain a prevalent and threatening issue throughout Kenya, steps like establishing school and community gardens can help to provide support to children and families in need.

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