At 60 years of age, due to age, Joyce Okaba is unable to cultivate a large area of land but she earns her living through kitchen gardening.
Her home in Otina village, Agwata Sub County in Dokolo District, has different gardens with vegetables and a pit for preparing manure.
Types of kitchen gardens
Since November 2011, she has been growing vegetables for both domestic use and market from the five small gardens around her home to earn a living.
“I earn up to Shs200,000 from the sale of my produce. I usually sell from home to the communities. I also help my neighbours to learn the practice and make fertilisers,” she says.
The design of the gardens around her compound is suitable as she uses less energy to manage and harvest produce. Types of compound gardens include Mandara, where soil is heaped and a hole is left for water and manure, a sack garden where soil is packed in the sack with stones, and a key-hole garden where soil is heaped in a key-like shape leaving space for a hole to collect water and fertilisers during the rain.
Okaba also grows vegetables in a key-hole garden. “I get vegetables for my family and also surplus for sale at the market. But I am able to manage the gardens jointly with my domestic work and they are safe from thieves or animals,” she says.
She is under the Send a Cow progamme on organic farming in the war-affected areas in the northern region. A member of Ajuk Women group, she is one of hundreds of farmers practising agriculture using available local items to promote soil fertility.
Dr Christopher Kyeswa, programme manager, Send a Cow Uganda, explains kitchen gardens are easy to manage for they promote profitable use of water since the waste water from the kitchen will end up there. “For a farmer who is harvesting rain water, 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 says.
Kitchen gardening requires a composite pit for manure and soil with bio-degradables 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.
With kitchen gardening, the animal-man conflict is minimal and makes the gardens less susceptible to other kinds of conflicts hence stability and peace in the rural areas.
Unlike mainstream farming which require intensive labour, this type of farming uses only family labour to grow vegetables like onions, carrots, cabbages, and ddodo.
“It needs a maximum of three days to prepare a garden and an equivalent of Shs15,000 will be saved assuming one was to earn from their labour,” Kyeswa says observing that kitchen gardening needs less land, which can be a solution to the prevalent land conflicts.
Besides that, it is possible to harness the nutrition and health benefits of green vegetables.
“People are blind and others suffer from skin diseases and malnutrition. These problems are easy to manage with meagre resources for as long as one can have access to vegetables,” he adds.