Before Stella Makena kickstarted Shield of Faith’s gardening and composting project in the Kibera informal settlement, many of the project’s members had never heard of, let alone tasted, Chinese cabbage and strawberries. Today, their gardens are producing these fruits and vegetables in bounty.
In Kibera, where food insecurity is high, many of the settlement’s residents rely on whatever produce they can afford at the numerous informal produce stands or at Toi Market. In this open-air space, hundreds of vendors compete to sell produce, second-hand clothes, and even furniture. Unfortunately, this market recently suffered from an electrical fire just over three weeks ago. One trader reported to Kenya’s Pulselive media outlet that a little over 3,000 stalls were razed in the fire. Not only did this deeply affect all of the vendors in the market, thus leaving a deep scar on the settlement’s informal economy, but it also meant that those who relied on the market to purchase their fruits and vegetables now had to seek alternative, and sometimes more expensive, sources.
By providing 20 single mothers from Nairobi’s informal settlements with the equipment and the support needed to grow and harvest their own produce, Shield of Faith helps mitigate the effects of food insecurity on the project’s participants. Also, it introduces the women to new fruits and vegetables, which add different nutrients to their diets and those of their families. As women are often primarily responsible for feeding the children, not only in Kibera but in the world, the addition of nutrient-rich and diversified produce into their households translates into a nutrient-rich diet for their children.
To illustrate, a few weeks ago Stella and I met with Eunice, one of Shield of Faith’s members, at her residence in Kibera, where she maintains a communal garden for the project. On that day, the three of us harvested several colossal bunches of gorgeous green Chinese cabbage. This was Eunice’s first time growing the crop, and it was an enormous success. As the garden is communal, Stella and I shared the harvest with several of the project’s other members. Living just down the street from Eunice, Vena took home one of the bunches of Chinese cabbage. She was a little hesitant to take some home, at first, because she had never cooked or tasted the vegetable before. However, Stella was quickly able to assuage her worries, and a week later, Vena reported back that she loved the cabbage! Now, Vena, Eunice, and the other ladies have more choices for vegetables, and home-grown vegetables at that. This leaves the women less vulnerable to the market’s volatility.
On Friday, Roba, a caretaker of the communal garden and indirect beneficiary of the project, harvested the first of many strawberries in Kibera. Packed with vitamins and nutrients, this little berry is a testament to the project members’ ingenuity, perseverance, and blooming self-reliance.
Posted By Caitlin Mittrick
Posted Jul 3rd, 2023