During the ongoing August 2020 Conservation Holiday Clubs, funded by Great Plains Conservation Foundation, we are training 50 children in our scholarship programme two topics about conservation: the benefits of kitchen gardens and how they act as a predictor of enhanced dietary diversity.
The kitchen garden project is part of the holiday camp conservation theme. Our focus is to encourage the kids to embrace and participate in small scale gardening, connect it to promoting wildlife conservation, and teach health benefits provided by goods grown in the garden. Gardening is good for the children because it helps them have a sense of accountability, it involves hand-eye coordination and sensory intake, and it’s an ongoing activity that can extend beyond the garden for learning. Especially now that they are not in school due to COVID-19, having a long term project to focus on and learn from can assist in relieving large amounts of stress that accompany this pandemic.
“Do you know that by having your own kitchen garden, you can save time, energy, and money?” asked Isen Kipetu, Project Officer- Gender.
She continued to share with the children how a kitchen garden can save you the time spent going to the market. Because produce is not grown locally in the Mara, residents have to wait for the two market days a week for fruits and vegetables to be imported.
The children were taught how a kitchen garden can also help to prevent small scale poaching. Poaching for small animal game meat is a norm that is practiced in the Mara secretively. Although it is illegal, those practicing this activity are forced into it through their circumstances. Forty percent of occupants in the Mara rely on ugali as food, a food that is made from maize flour; often served with milk from cows as a stew. This becomes redundant for some, hence pushing folks to kill animals like dik-dik and Guinea fowls for stew. Introducing small scale farming helps the community understand that they can grow their own vegetables rich in iron and vitamins, ultimately cutting down on the harmful norm to the environment.
A kitchen garden prevents soil erosion and replenishes nutrients in the soil. The roots from the plants help bind the soil together making them less likely to wash away after particularly heavy rain; protecting slopes from sliding down. Topsoil is created by leaf litter and other organic materials that fall from plants. Dead decaying plants, especially annual vegetation, provide materials both above and under the surface of the soils available for the following seasons of growth.
The children were very excited to learn that a kitchen garden also supports beneficial insects and birds. Birds are drawn to protected areas and can help keep unwanted insects away. Birds are an integral part of the environment as they help spread vegetative seeds, are a food source for other wildlife, and can also help protect crops against unwanted predators and insects.
Isen continues to explain and show the children samples of how they can achieve this by transplanting the two-week-old seedlings she had brought with her. She continued to speak positive words of encouragement.
“All one needs to have an excellent kitchen garden is to be innovative, have a little ground (containers, tires, or sacks), and something to water the plants with; one can even use an old plastic bottle with small pierced holes.” -Isen Kipetu.
The children were encouraged to start their own kitchen garden. By providing kale seeds to use and assurance that follow-up mentoring will occur, the children are on their way to self-sustainability. Isen will help provide guidance at every step of the gardening and check back in to see which students achieved the goal of starting their own kitchen garden.