“I think we sometimes fail to put up kitchen gardens not because we don’t need them but because we lack adequate knowledge on their importance, and, also because no one has given our people guidance on how to establish them. We are grateful to W4V for this training and for the knowledge and skills passed onto us, henceforth we are going to establish kitchen gardens in our homes” said Bizimana Emmanuel the Local Council One Chairman of Ruchantege and a PI.
According to the W4V Project Officer, Sarah Kigongo, Kitchen gardening improves the status of household nutrition especially for children, supports food security efforts and can also be a source of household income.
The Kisoro District Nutrition Action Plan 2015/2016 – 2019/2020 reveals that Kisoro district is challenged by malnutrition which affects the socio – economic development of the district. Under its pilot of Integrated Farm Planning (PIP)approach that aims at fostering resilient farming systems, W4V has embarked on empowering the selected Innovative Farmers (PIs) with skills and knowledge in Kitchen gardening. Empowering the farmers will enable them to address their household nutrition challenges and exploit the associated economic benefits.
Thirty-seven (37) (18 F, 19 M) of the forty (40) PIs were trained on how to grow seven different types of vegetables (including onions, tomatoes, amaranthus, carrots, spinach, night shed and swiss chard (sukuma wiki) and their nutritional value, fertilizer usage and the values of each fertilizer available on the local market. Additionally, the participants learnt about the different vegetable seeds on the market, about compost manure and why it is still the best alternative in growing of vegetables. The purpose of the training was to introduce Innovative Farmers (PIs) to the concept of kitchen gardening agronomy. Kitchen gardening is one of the main activities under the integration aspect of the PIP approach. Integrating a cross section of agricultural activities as well as other aspects inherent and important to the household allows for increased production and more resilient farming systems.
W4V works with communities to improve water and soil conservation that leads to increased crop productivity and food security so that people’s livelihood can be independent of the national park.
The participants especially women joyfully participated in the training and anticipate that kitchen gardens will be a reliable source of constant supply of vegetables through the year. The vegetables will not only be for domestic consumption but individuals with bigger space can grow and sell to earn extra income.
The agronomy initiative is being implemented in the villages of Kabande and Ruchantege in Gitenderi parish, Nyarusiza sub county. Following the training three different demonstration gardens were set up in the two villages; one in Kabande offered by Nyirahabineza Rebecca and two in Ruchantege offered by the Chairperson Bizimana Emmanuel and by Neretse Gad. The demos will serve as learning points for PIs and any other community members interested in learning how to establish kitchen gardens in their own homesteads. In the bid to lead by example PIP facilitators established a demo kitchen garden at the Project Officer’s home to coin the saying that charity begins at home – and also serve as a model kitchen garden for others to learn from.
The establishment of demo kitchen gardens was guided by the best practices of soil erosion control and conservation. Water ways were created and pegs as well as grass were used to hold soil firmly without the fear or danger of being eroded away.
Commenting on the training received, one Nyirahabineza Rebecca, an elderly PI in Kabande Village said “as an old lady who appreciates the importance of vegetables, I am glad that I have participated in this training. With the knowledge and skills acquired I will establish and maintain a better kitchen garden”.
Some PIs saw a business opportunity in the training received. They pledged to take advantage of the training to grow vegetables on a large scale and sell to others without vegetable gardens. “Since i have acquired knowledge to plant a variety of vegetables some of which are not common around here, i am going to grow them on large scale, eat and sell the surplus to those that need them. This way I will improve my household income” Sharamanzi Festo.
A youthful Nyirakamana Phiona excitedly mentioned how she will finally be able to cut down on costs and save a coin or two, “with the establishment of my kitchen garden I will be saving the money I have been using to buy beans. These vegetables will supplement my sauce at home and thus allow me to save some of my money”.