In her semiarid region of Kenya, Jane Kairuthi Kathurima struggled for years as an animal herder to feed her family.
Then she started sack farming, and two years later, she grows enough beets, spinach, lettuce, and arugula for her family with enough surplus to sell to the community.
In many African communities, women’s only access to land comes through male family members, Sarah McColl reports in TakePart.
Women risk losing land entitlements through divorce, widowhood, or husbands who migrate in order to find work, according Regina Pritchett of the Huairou Commission, a New York City-based nonprofit that works on housing and community issues for women across Africa.
After losing a husband to AIDS, women may be evicted from their land, Pritchett said in a TakePart report. If they are unable to return home and access land through a brother or uncle, they can end up being displaced, she said.
Zimbabwean Veronica Kanyango found a way to help. Through her work as a grassroots organizer in home-based health care and hospice for people with HIV/AIDS, Kanyango encouraged pateints to do small-scale gardening in sacks.
She’s managed to turn the idea into an agrarian movement, according to TakePart.
Kanyango mobilized a network of women in her grassroots community to plant 7,000 sack gardens.
Some are producing lettuce and tomatoes for the Marriott hotel, Pritchett said. Producing to scale, some have been able to ensure a steady crop of a high quality. Some are getting higher prices at markets and hotels than they could at rural roadside stands.
Black Americans Have the Highest Mortality Rates But Lowest Levels of Life Insurance
Are you prioritizing your cable entertainment bill over protecting and investing in your family?
Smart Policies are as low as $30 a month, No Medical Exam Required
Click Here to Get Smart on Protecting Your Family and Loves Ones, No Matter What Happens
Sacks filled with manure, soil, and gravel are suitable for agriculturally challenged Africans. They work in rural communities, urban slums, and areas with that are prone to drought and flooding, according to TakePart.
“There’s not a high cost to get started, you’re not waiting on someone to give you seed funding. You could grab a sack and do that tomorrow,” Pritchett said.
Like a vertical farming operation or deep container gardening, sack gardens can take a small footprint of land and yield a comparative bounty. Compared to a traditional field-based farm, the sacks require less space, less water, and less labor.
Those living with HIV/AIDS lack the strength to walk to a water source and carry water back, according to Pritchett. They’re too sick to till the land, or spend hours stooped in the fields harvesting and weeding.
“Sack farming is a less physically intense version of farming,” she said. “You can just do a lot more with less. It’s about efficiency.”
Sack gardening is also beneficial to those in good health. In Africa and other areas of the developing world, water collection falls to women and girls. Studies show they collectively spend an estimated 140 million hours each day collecting. That’s time that could be spent at school or generating income. The scale and efficiency of sack gardens could give some of it back.
At their most basic, sack gardens provide nutrition and food security, TakePart reports. HIV/AIDS medication can’t be taken on an empty stomach. Sack gardens supply potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and onionsd.
Many women with sack gardens are now producing surplus, Pritchett said, which they can sell.