PROJECT: ORGANIC GREENHOUSE
From report by Lexi Spaulding (full report available here)
The Rita Rose Garden and Sustainable Farm in Kisumu, Kenya grew tremendously this year in the quality and diversity of its projects. With the generous support of the Friends Foundation International, a new, large greenhouse was constructed and planted with organically grown tomatoes so that the farm can further support the Kisumu Children’s Rescue Center.
The eight meter by twenty-eight meter greenhouse was finished in May of 2015 and after spending time improving soil drainage, increasing soil organic matter, and preparing the seedlings, the greenhouse has recently been planted and 700 plants are growing strong! A case of tomato blight proved to be an obstacle in the early fall but now the plants are on their way to providing juicy, healthy tomatoes.
This new greenhouse instigated a large and important shift in the farm’s practices. While the farm project manager had been trained in permaculture, abandoning inorganic inputs had been a struggle due to the financial risk and many unknowns. The FFI-funded greenhouse was to be fully organic and so with this ensured funding, the farm team committed to transitioning the whole farm to organic production.
Today they are making their own compost and natural pesticides from plants on the land as well as incorporating more crop rotation and intercropping. The Rita Rose Garden is the first farm in the area to use compost and the team hopes that when their neighbors see their success, they will all want to start their own compost heaps. This farm is not an island but an influential and powerful part of its community. All the healthy, organic food produced on the farm goes either to the Kisumu Children’s Rescue Center or is sold to women from the community who go on to sell it at the market.
This farm’s purpose is to be the sustainability engine for the Kisumu Children’s Rescue Center and eventually provide all the food and income needed for it to run. At the Rescue Center, the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social needs of children and youth who have become victims of HIV/AIDS, neglect, abuse, poverty, hunger, and culture are met with attention and sensitivity. The Rescue Center targets those who are in extremely difficult socio-economic circumstances that significantly compromise their social, physical, nutritional and financial security. To combat these circumstances, 26 children are provided with in-house food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, specialized education, psychosocial support, and skills training. The Center is a temporary home for these children for one to two years and during this time staff facilitate each child’s rehabilitation and integration into family units. Staff will identify a responsible and caring family member or guardian who can selflessly provide for the child like their own. Through parent capacity building, effective community and parent empowerment systems are created as well. The farm’s healthy food provides the food they need to grow, heal, learn, and become the future leaders of their communities.
The farm works every day towards the goal of fully sustaining the Rescue Center through the food and income it generates. In 2015, that goal got much closer with the building of the fully organic greenhouse as well as the construction of two new fish ponds, installation of drip irrigation, and the beginning of both a composting program and a dairy goat business. This great diversity of projects ensures resiliency while also contributing to community knowledge.
Thirty-six women are part of training program on the farm that incorporates techniques and permaculture principles to help them grow their own organic gardens at home. Every week, half of them come to the farm to work for thirty minutes before their training session. All of these women are also caregivers for orphans or vulnerable children that the organization OLPS supports and this training ensures that their home gardens will provide healthy food for their family and the children they care for. One of them also runs a grocery that sells the farm’s produce. This training helps them improve their gardens and spread the kind of sustainable agriculture techniques that will help Chiga sub-county in Kisumu build itself up.
The Rescue Center and farm are run by the organization OLPS (Our Lady of Perpetual Support), a community-based organization started in 1992 by a group of HIV-positive individuals to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS through community participation. Today OLPS runs an HIV care and treatment center where currently more than 1,800 individuals are accessing HIV care and support services. They focus their efforts on HIV prevention, care and treatment, reproductive health education and promotion, and programs aimed at creating healthy, empowered, and productive youth.