In Kibera, Nairobi’s – and possibly Africa’s – most populated slum of one million inhabitants, a group of young people has formed the Youth Reform Group to recuperate some of the large areas of abandoned land around the slum and convert them to organic agriculture.
A shantytown rife with delinquency, poverty, aids and critical hygiene conditions, Kibera has also experienced violent ethnic disputes in its history, the most recent followed the political elections that overtook the nation at the beginning of 2008.
In this difficult environment, this group of young people – barely over twenty years old and many of whom have already spent time in prison- have found a new hope in growing food for their themselves, their families and the slum’s population.
The Youth Reform Group is committed to reclaiming plots of land which have been left to become rubbish dumps and open-toilets. With help from Green Dreams, a pioneer company in organic cultivation in Kenya, the youth have transformed these former wastelands into strictly organic farms full of zucchini, spinach, sunflowers and other crops.
‘The only problem is the soil,’ confirmed Victor Matioli, member of the Youth Reform Group. ‘The level of toxins is still high, even if it is not dangerous, because we don’t have the necessary technology to reclaim soil from deep down. But we are cultivating organically, using natural fertilizers and no pesticides and we believe the soil will return to full health within a few years’.
This summer the first vegetables were harvested and consumed by the youths and their families, while the surplus was sold within the slum. In this poor angle of the world, agriculture has given these young people a hope for the future.