The novel Corona virus, has severely affected all sectors of life, requiring governments to take measures that limit human contact and activity. This has prompted populations to develop approaches and strategies for resilience.
This article presents the “home garden” approach used by some young people of the CYNESA Democratic Republic of Congo Chapter, in response to the scarcity of vegetables but also in response to the government’s call for physical distancing in the city of Bukavu, South Kivu province. Covid-19 not only has health consequences, it also has a strong impact on many activities and sectors of life. It has significantly affected our mental state by reducing the frequency of meeting relatives, friends and acquaintances. The pandemic has resulted in the cancellation or postponement of shows, religious activities, conferences, sports, leisure activities, classroom classes and other events.
The slowdown in local, regional and international activities and trade has also dealt a severe blow to the daily lives of the people of the city of Bukavu. A considerable drop has been recorded in the sectors of handicrafts, trade, tourism and other services.
In the City of Bukavu, access to food has become difficult, while a surge in market prices is likely to result in monetary inflation. In response to the scarcity of vegetables, CYNESA DRC has adopted and is experimenting the home garden approach. This approach is an attempt to ensure food security for CYNESA DRC members and their families, but also the broader community.
Noting the scarcity of vegetables on the market and the rising prices of certain foodstuffs, CYNESA DRC members got together, to evaluate the possibility of starting a family experimental field for sweet potato leaf stew, amaranths and pumpkin leaves.
In April 2020, we chose the field on which the crops should be sown. We proceeded with the site preparation work with a few members who had made themselves available and with the help of the neighbours.
As can be seen in the picture below, the small vegetable garden is in full growth. We have already harvested vegetables there as have some of the neighbours. We take care to water the vegetable garden every day during the dry season.
This approach has the following advantages:
- It is an approach that’s not too expensive and easy to set up (if you have space);
- It is a new form of awareness and motivation based on practice;
- It limits the risk of disease contamination and other risks of displacement;
- It is a satisfactory and economical approach;
- It is part of agro ecology and limits the impact on the environment;
- It contributes to food security and makes it possible to use a reduced space;
- It offers the possibility of supplying vegetables to the neighbors;
- It makes it possible to monitor and organize maintenance activities in the vicinity, from sowing to harvesting;
- Facilitates collaboration in the community, and can trigger the design of other local and common projects.
From our experience so far, we can offer some advice in setting up a home garden. It is important to select a good site, taking into account also the soil type. Ensure that you get rid of any weeds and removing all the roots. Loosen the soil and enrich it with organic manure like food leftovers and homemade compost. Crate small plots, preferably in the form of small squares, and select for planting crops that can fetch higher prices in markets. However, the vegetables should be suitable for the climate. Ensure that you water them regularly, and protect them from the wind by building hedges. For ease of management throughout the growing season, create aisles in the small vegetable garden. At harvest time, vegetables can be preserved in the freezer or by drying.
CYNESA DRC is keen to spread this approach in the communities and schools we work with, by teaching and raising awareness about simple techniques, crops that are easy to find and adapted to the climate and easy to grow. The major challenge is finding space because urban environments have become heavily anthropized. We wish to thank all those who have contributed to the creation of this garden, especially Mr. Pacifique Mutalemba for his support and sacrifices.
Didier Mugalihya, Country Director, CYNESA-DR Congo.