Ndogo Farm, making urban farming a reality even with limited space

By Steven Mulanda
Urban farming is an issue that is being embraced by many nowadays. People have come up with innovations that are enabling them to grow mostly organic foodstuffs for their consumption even as health eating concerns rise. Technologies such as hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, vertical gardens among others, have come in handy across the world for city farming. Elizabeth Koigi is a young lady from Kahatia, Murang’a County trailblazing in urban farming systems, something that has earned her accolades.

She is the founder of Ndogo Farm that has churned out the idea of converting small space in homesteads into kitchen gardens. It specifically targets urban dwellers to make farming a reality through turning small spaces into gardens which ensures them easy access to fresh, organically grown vegetables and other food crops.
Before venturing into kitchen garden farming systems, she had leased land and installed a greenhouse where she used to grow bountiful crops, only for the community around deciding to harvest the produce for her disappointment.

An environmentalist and a teacher by profession, Elizabeth has made substantial strides in urban gardening. With the vision of creating a better environment and combating food insecurities, she not only hopes to help communities in urban and rural areas access fresh and organically grown produce, but also to educate people on how they can farm from the convenience of their own homes.

This idea she conceived in 2017, has seen her rub shoulders with the best minds in innovation across Africa. Through the Africa Innovation Fellowship which is based in South Africa; Elizabeth was among the 25 finalist selected for their exemplary works. The organization supports women and startups business in innovation and engineering across Africa. It focuses primarily with training programs, courses, workshops, seminars, innovation management investments, international opportunities, research and development events.

“My first prototype was pipes system whereby using coco peat with manure one would grow few vegetables. The results were not as expected because everything flopped, which is the beauty of innovation. Everything you start has to flop or dwindle to enable one to brainstorm and carryout more research to perfect the craft,” she stated. Her interest in farming began at a very tender age and she attests that she wanted to create and impact in farming in a different way as an entrepreneur though it never crossed her mind that she can start a shop or an institution that can make a change and impacts people’s lives by having a project that does not produce carbon footprint into the environment.

“I wanted to be part of those working around in reducing carbon footprint in urban areas where most of the carbon emissions occurs in high concentration. There is this beauty in greenery where if you find a green place it creates a psychological effect of calmness which I was also trying to promote it,” says the mathematics and chemistry teacher at a secondary school in Murang’a County.

The payoffs of her work has seen her innovate drums system which according to her they don’t occupy more space and they are easily available. For the pipes system, they occupy a lot of space due to their horizontal positioning with a dimension of 6 feet and they are also expensive to purchase. In addition, the plants that are planted in the pipes are minimal compared to the one in drums; with a single drum taking 60 plants at every stage of growth.

“I wanted to make an impact that is huge, so I asked myself what is this one thing that can easily be found at home and people can easily afford and relate with, and the answer was a drum and buckets. So I started converting drums and buckets into gardens,” she said.

Ndogo farms sells a 100 litres converted drum system at Ksh 5,000, but for the same that has potting mix, composting system that contains red wriggler worms, 1 litre foliar fertilizer, 1 litre organic pesticide and some plants at a cost of Ksh 15,000 exclusive of the delivery charges. “When I first introduced this system to the market, the reactions I got were extremely shocking; people could not believe because they thought the charges were extremely exorbitant but those who understood what I was offering, trooped to my farm to purchase,” she explained.
For farmers using soil as a potting mix she states that soils tend to compact and become difficult growing crops in consecutive season due to poor aeration of the soil. She encourages farmers to use potting mixture, which is a combination of different types of substances, such as cocopeat that ensures the mixture is well aerated and has good water absorption.

Her parting shot is “I have had a passion towards sustainable agriculture. Am hoping and praying that my work will impact more people. My dream is to one day come up with system that can be used in arid and semi arid regions. Am hoping that I will be part of a journey of reducing hunger and starvation in my country Kenya, and maybe globally. Just one step at a time, “she said in conclusion.

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