Skip to content

Training in vertical bags

June 7th, 2022

Our EUAV Alice came to Shianda from Italy almost three months ago. Her mission? Support and improve the ongoing agricultural activities and income of smallholder farmers and increase their resistance to the impacts of changing climate and weather patterns.

Her first month here was mainly spent visiting the various community groups that are supported by WEFOCO in their activities. The purpose of these visits was that of conducting a needs assessment and draw a new baseline on the ongoing situation, both in agriculture and poultry keeping.

The findings showed that most of the smallholder farmers in the area are facing the same challenges:
– fertilizers and chicken feeds are too expensive (also as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine);
– chicken houses are costly to build, but keeping chickens in simple cages overnight makes them an easy target for thieves. Therefore, people prefer to keep chickens inside their houses, in their bedrooms, or in kitchens;
– draughts pose a real threat to most of the crops, especially now, during the rainy season;
– land prices are too high for many to afford, both for leasing and buying.

Together with WEFOCO, her local and Estonian mentors, and the community members, Alice found a possible solution to two of the above problems.

When visiting Msalaba, one of the community groups, and walking between its “shamba” (field in Swahili) and poultry house, both Alice and Eve noticed two big black bags covered in kale plants. One PVC bag had been bought from a local agriculture company, while the second one had been obtained from an old sack used to store cereals. After taking some pictures of these curious bags, Alice started researching this cultivation system.

So-called “vertical bags” can be an opportunity for farmers to grow vegetables in a reduced space, even in their garden, increasing their yields, without needing to lease or buy additional land. Plus, the crops in these bags require less water, since it does not dissipate in the dry local soil, but is retained inside the PVC bag. Using vertical bags (and reusing them again up to 8 years) the groups would be able to grow not only kale but also other crops like amaranth, nightshade, spinach, herbs, and onions, allowing them to:
– diversify their diet, since the lack of land pushes them to grow mainly (if not solely) maize and beans. These can be intercropped and easily make for a complete and nutritious meal for many families, at the expense of a more varied and balanced diet;
– generate income as many farmers have problems growing vegetables due to lack of rain, and prices for imported yields go up, then the selling can become very profitable.

After getting the support of WEFOCO and Mondo, it has been possible to organize a theoretical training and a demonstration on the 24th and 25th of May. The purpose of this 2-days training in vertical bags was simple: to provide farmers with the knowledge and skills to create vertical gardens from old and cheap materials in a reduced space, using little water. This would allow farmers to plant vegetables that they usually do not eat, in order to balance their diet, or sell them and make a profit.

The training has been a success, with 39 participants from 14 groups that make up more than 200 members. Now we will proceed with the follow-up. We gave the groups two cheap sacks commonly used for the storing of cereals and two packs of kale seeds. We will be following how their kale nurseries are doing, and we are also planning to visit them when the seedlings will be ready for transplanting, in order to make the vertical bags together with them.

The potential in these community groups is evident, they only need training and some backing. For now, we would say we are satisfied with the work the beneficiaries are doing, and we think we will achieve great results together.

From → Uncategorized

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS