Small Space, Big Promise: Sack Farming Holds Potential For Poor Urban Households
Harriet Nakabaale, 45, a resident of Kawaala, Uganda, a Kampala suburb, lives in a small one-bedroom house set on a plot of land measuring 30 feet wide and 50 feet long. This is typical for many peri-urban poor households who cannot afford the luxury of spacious lawns and tree-lined driveways.
Despite the small size, Ms Nakabaale has turned her small compound into a neat green garden that has become the envy of many and has now become a demonstration garden of sorts.
Nakabaale apparently learnt sack farming from her parents who used to practice it at home on a small scale. In fact, growing up she was always told that every woman needs a garden, something that inspired her to set up a sack garden to fit in her small space.
So when you walk through the small gate into her homestead, it is the green that welcomes you. Sacks sit side by side along a small corridor that leads to her door. There are also cut one-litre plastic soda bottles hanging at the verandah of the chicken coop and black disused paint cans stand in between the sacks. All are teaming with crops. The sacks are not ordinary, at least in regards to size. They are so gigantic with a radius of just over one meter. She has only four of them; exactly what her compound can hold.
Setting Up The Garden
“I started by collecting huge sacks that had been dumped around my neighbourhood. Given that I have always had a poultry house, I was able to compostchicken manure that had accumulated in the coop. This I mixed with black soil to enrich the soil. But I did not just fill the sacks with the soil, I had to place small pebble stones at the middle of the sack, right from bottom to top, then filled the sack with soil leaving the stones erect in the middle,” the mother of three says.
The stones ensure sufficient water distribution throughout the sacks during watering.
In one of the sacks she grows spinach, dodo and carrots. In another sack is a young guava tree right in its centre surrounded by green vegetables. In yet another there are spring onions, celery, tomatoes and spinach. True to her philosophy, size does not matter which is why even in egg shells there are thriving plants.
In order to ensure maximum usage of the sack, she grows some crops on the sides of the bag. “Usually the crops with big roots like carrots go on the top and the sides are reserved for those with small roots like ordinary vegetables. I water my sack garden almost on a daily basis so I have no such a thing as a crop growing season. My garden is ever green, even during the dry season,” she say