Little spaces promise more food and nutrition security for households in Kenya

Boaz Waswa. Josey Kamanda and Patricia Onyango

Did you know that with just a small space you can set up a kitchen garden with various crops including beans?

Increasing land scarcity especially in urban and peri-urban areas calls for fresh ideas for ensuring a regular supply of fresh food. Kitchen gardens offer a unique opportunity for families to access healthy diets throughout the year from growing fruits, vegetables, legumes, roots, and tubers that contain adequate macro and micronutrients.

To showcase the importance of kitchen gardening, the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in Kenya, and other partners established model home/kitchen garden demonstrations at Kilimo House, in Nairobi. The Kitchen Gardening Model was officially launched by the Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Ms. Annie Nyaga at a colorful ceremony held on 22 September 2020. The CAS enthusiastically encouraged participants to adopt kitchen-gardening agri-technologies by stating “Setting up kitchen gardens can be a fun, interactive, educative and bonding exercise in a family set up.

The Kitchen Gardens is part Kenyan government initiative drive of 1 million kitchen gardens campaign that targets both rural and urban dwellers to achieve food and nutrition security- one of the Four Pillars under the government’s Big Four agenda. On display was a wide array of crops among them the high iron and zinc beans – of the bush and climbing types.

Why beans in home gardens?

Climbing beans were identified as one of the crops suited for a kitchen garden because they occupy little space with very good yields. They are a major source of protein, energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals for healthy lives. The newly released bean varieties – Angaza, Faida, and Nyota. in Kenya are niche beans rich in iron and zinc, two essential micronutrients that are key in proper child development and health of pregnant mothers. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder impacting women of reproductive age, children, and infants severely. Lack of iron can lead to cognitive impairment and physical development. Severe anemia, often caused by iron deficiency, increases risks to women during childbirth and can cause death.

In Kenya, 26 percent of children under five years are stunted and 4 percent suffer from wasting. On the other hand, zinc deficiency contributes to growth retardation, loss of appetite, poor brain development, impaired immune function, and delayed sexual maturation.

The beans on display are early maturing between 60-80 days and can be eaten as green and dry beans, or the leaves. Speaking at the event, Dr. Boaz Waswa, from PABRA commented ‘Integrating climbing beans in a kitchen garden has the advantage of utilizing the limited space vertically to produce up to 3-4 times more beans than the bush bean type in the same area. This means that one can plant a few climbing bean plants as ornamental even on the balcony and harvest nutritious beans both fresh and dried and bean leaves to enrich the diets’.

Beyond consuming beans in their traditional forms by boiling to make stew, they can be processed into flour and blended with other commodities to make nutritious porridge, noodles, cakes, biscuits, and other snacks. Pre-cooked, frozen, or canned bean products offer quick-to-prepare meal options thus helping to save time and energy for both rural and urban households.

Producing and consuming nutritious foods – such as beans that are rich in iron and zinc – thus offers an affordable and sustainable solution to improving the health of households even within limited spaces.

We acknowledge the support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Swiss Development Corporation (SDC)  Africa Development Bank through the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation –TAAT, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals – GLDC, Pulses & Cereals Kenya, Kenya Agricultural, and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)

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