With the Zanzibar population expected to reach over 1.6 million by 2022, there is a continuous need to increase food production and buffer stocks.
In this scenario, Zanzibar as part of the world is resorting to various counter-strategies to meet the growing demand and avert food insecurity and malnutrition.
Over the recent years, there has been growing interest to strengthen and intensify local food production to mitigate the adverse effect of global food shocks and food price volatilities. Consequently, there is much attention towards kitchen garden farming as a strategy to enhance household food security, business and nutrition.
Agriculture, which is being implemented in various countries like Kenya where it employs more than one million people majority of whom women, has attracted more attention in Zanzibar.
Through Viungo Project which is jointly implemented by the government, Peoples Development Forum (PDF), Community Forest Pemba (CFP) and Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) with European Union support, it aims to reach 5,000 women who will be self-employed in this type of farming.
James Lucas, an agronomist from PDF, said agriculture is targeting women because they haven’t access to land for commercial farming.
“Kitchen gardens or home gardens are an integral part of local food systems and the agricultural landscape of developing countries all over the world and have endured the test of time. In Zanzibar, we are implementing this agriculture through the Viungo Project and our beneficiaries are women,” he told Zanzibar Mail.
He said they have set up 20 farmer field classes with 1,000 members in various parts of Zanzibar but the target is to have more farmer field classes that will accommodate more than 5,000 women farmers.
“The focus is not only to make food available but also improve the nutritional quality of that food: nutrition is the difference,” he said during a one-day workshop to journalists at Mwanakwerekwe.
He said evidence shows most vegetables consumed by households in Zanzibar are grown along polluted rivers and streams using wastewater that contains heavy metals and other toxic chemicals.
“Developing your kitchen garden assures your family of a high nutrient diet that is not toxic to your body and cannot cause diseases. But it is also a source of income for women,” he said.
The expert said that kitchen gardens are easy to manage for they promote profitable use of water since the wastewater from the kitchen will end up there.
“For a farmer who is harvesting rainwater, it is easy to transfer it to the garden without a lot of effort because the plantation is near home. But also a parent can easily supervise the children to work on the gardens,” he said.
He said kitchen gardening requires a composite pit for manure and soil with bio-degradable because it sustains water for a longer time during a dry spell. “Kitchen gardening helps a farmer not to walk long distances for water and use less energy for farm work,” he adds while describing plants grown in this set up as high yielding, fast maturing and drought tolerant.
Lucas said, unlike mainstream farming which requires intensive labour, this type of farming uses only family labour to grow vegetables like onions, carrots, cabbages, potatoes and okra.
He observes that kitchen gardening needs less land, which can be a solution to the prevalent land conflicts.
He notes that before establishing such a farm, one should consider the amount of space available, the plants to grow and the amount of time they wish to dedicate tending to the crop.
“For instance, if one wants to grow 10 vegetable plants, they may use old tires while for 50, they can go for terrace gardens,” he noted.
He, however, cautions that one must know the basics of how gardening works before attempting the project.
“If you want to start a home garden, you must have an idea of the type of garden you want,” he said.
“A kitchen garden is mostly used for growing simple herbs, vegetables, or flowers whereas the landscaped garden is used for outdoor entertainment or as a children’s playground aside from growing plants and vegetables on it.”
He advises beginners that it is better to start with a small garden then expand later as you get comfortable in gardening.