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Thursday, July 26, 2012


A multi-storey garden is an upright sack filled with soil, in which food crops like vegetables, kales, carrots or onions grow in its sides.
This kind of farming is considered an urban farming method especially for people without enough farming land. Although many residents of Isinya have considerably large sizes of land, they are unable to practice year round crop production due to water scarcity. This is further made worse with the ever increasing food prices and unreliable rainfall. Multi-storey farming not only makes efficient use of water but it is also safe from droughts and floods. The way I see it, this kind of farming might actually hold the key to sustainable farming and food security in arid and semi arid areas like Isinya.
 Women of Nassaru Ntoiye’s women’s group recently benefited from training on multi-storey farming. The training was facilitated by ALIN and conducted by Lois Gakuru an extension officer from the ministry of agriculture (MOA).
In order to make the sack garden, you need only a few requirements and to three hours of your time.
  •   1 90kg gunia
  •   2 wheelbarrows or 45 kgs of good soil
  •   2 wheel barrows or 45 kgs of mature manure
  •   1kg DAP (skip this if you are practicing organic farming)
  •   ¼ bag of small stones
  •   4 wooden stakes
  •  Seedlings of kale or spinach
  •   A can or tin with no bottom or top
  •   Knife
  •  Enough water

    Step 1
    Indentify and prepare site to place the garden making sure it is flat.
    Thoroughly mix the soil, manure and the DAP
    Step 2
    Tear the bottom of the gunia such that it is open on both ends
    Use the 4 stakes to ensure that the sack stands upright.

    Step 4
    Place the bottomless can in the middle of the sack and fill with stones

    Step 5
    Fill the area around the can with the soil, manure and dap mixture

    Step 6
    Pull the can up, refill it with stones and fill the area around with the soil mixture 

    Step 7
    Water the soil mixture till it is well saturated (do this after every layer of soil mixture)

    Step 8
    Repeat steps 6 and 7 till the sack is full

    Step 9
    Make holes in the sack beginning from 1foot from the ground.
    Insert a stick in each hole to form planting hole

    The spacing between the holes across the sack should be one inch apart. You can use your hand to measure this, which is the distance between the tip of your middle finger and the tip of your thumb.
    Step 10
    Plant your seedlings in the planting holes on the side of the sack using a blunt stick


    The small stones in the middle of the sack not only enable for easy watering of your garden, but also enable aeration of the root area of the plant as well as providing a hold for the roots.
    Remember that lower primary science and agriculture lesson where we learnt about phototropism????  That word ring any bells???? If it does then you know that the direction of a plants growth is determined by the direction of light source. As soon as the roots take hold the seedlings will stand upright towards the sun.
    Preferably every evening. During the day a lot of evaporation takes place and plants therefore will not maximize water intake. You can also use the water you have rinsed your clothes in instead of pouring it.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012


    In a bid to enhance information sharing ALIN has established several Maarifa centers across east Africa which facilitates information sharing through a number of platforms such as free Internet access, publications and libraries. One of such centers s located in Isinya.
    Early last year(2011) we received a donation by book aid which ranged from children’s book, novels, books on agriculture, human rights, gender, health... you name it, this brought  a lot of excitement among the Maarifa center users, in all this excitement we noticed that  for the longest time  the children’s books section of the library remained unused and even the children that regularly came into the center did not seem interested , this became cause for alert and it was time for affirmative action, if the readers can’t come to us then we shall go to them, this was the beginning of the school outreach program..
    In this mobile library initiative a school is allowed to borrow up to a hundred books every day or more and is responsible for the books safety. We decided  to pilot the idea at Isinya primary school.
    We first spoke to the then DEO Mr. David Ndungu and briefed him about the idea, he was so excited he gave us a list of other schools in the area. Then we approached Mr. Nyamwaro the head teacher at Isinya primary school and he received the idea with open arms when we informed him of our intention. He immediately designated a teacher “teacher Samuel Kong’ani” who would be the bridge between the Maarifa center and the school, the program rolled out instantly.
    Within no time other teachers no longer had to go through teacher Samuel, they came straight to the Maarifa center and signed out books. And for those who had lessons later in the day they would give either the field officer or the volunteer details of books required such as which class how many books etc which would be prepared in advance.
    The students now no longer need their teachers to borrow books for them, they comfortably march into the Maarifa center and borrow a book of their choice keeping the Maarifa abuzz with activities one such student is Lydia Awuori a standard 2 pupil she is in 2 blue and last year she was in 1blue she has borrowed a book almost every single school day since last year, this made me really curios on whether the books have been on any help to her. Lydia is really shy but finally she tells me that she was number 4.

    Although it is extremely difficult to measure impact in such a situation Mr. Nyamwaro was of the opinion that the books may have to some extent contributed to the good performance of the school in last year’s KCPE, he also feels that the students have been greatly exposed.
    And like they say “a good book has no ending” the same applies to the school outreach program, now we roll out in full force and with confidence.