By Caroline SANG
A greenhouse is a building where plants are grown under controlled micro environment. Because this environment is controlled, it is not subject to the vagaries of weather patterns. It is for this reason that, greenhouses provide a balanced diet for plants at all times, thus granting them an optimal environment to flourish.
With integration of the Nutrition and Livelihood departments, Islamic Relief has engaged the intervention of greenhouse farming in North Eastern Kenya; an initiative that has seen dry arid lands being transformed into productive land, which are providing families with an income generating activity (through the sales of the produce) as well as a diversified food source, thereby improving the communities’ health status.
The initiative was formed through a network of mother support groups’ need for building livelihood strategies as a way of building resilience to food insecurity and improving dietary diversity for children and women. The group members have regular meetings within the week and they are also trained on topical issues such as: pregnancy, lactation, advantages of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, breastfeeding difficulties, infant feeding practices, hygiene, immunization as well as complementary feeding.
At Wagalla village in Wajir County in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, the Wagalla Mother Support group members are harvesting their tomatoes thanks to the greenhouse technology– and microcredit. Islamic Relief provided the group with seedlings, chemicals, spraying gear as well as training on crop planting, harvesting and management. Once the crops are ready for harvesting, it will help to market their produce.
“A bundle of ten tomatoes which would cost Sh40 three months ago is now going for double the price. But we have no choice,” said Mama Saadia, one of the group members of the Wagalla Mother Support Group.”
A spot check in the country shows that prices of horticultural produce have shot up in the past three months following the failure of short rains. However, farmers who use the greenhouse technology do not need rainfall for their crops to grow.
“I have discovered that greenhouse farming and general farming through irrigation is the way to go because rain-fed agriculture has failed especially living in a drought prone region; the rains are no longer reliable. “In my entire life, I was not able to raise the amount of money that could be used to put up such a project. But thanks to microcredit programme from Islamic Relief which have the interests of women at heart, I have become an independent entrepreneur in my old age.” Said Mama Saadia.