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Vertical Gardens: Sustainability in Uganda

As urbanization accelerates, the environment deteriorates. Farmland vanishes into urban developments. It’s only natural that food production would suffer as viable farmland is absorbed into cities and towns, but how does this impact the people who live in those communities, who rely on the food produced by the farmlands that no longer exist? (1)

Imagine waking up every single day to the realization that you don’t know where the next meal is coming from. Born in Uganda, Africa, IDEAS For Us Uganda’s Paul Matovu grew up in such a world; his mother struggled to keep their family alive when food supplies were short or community production faltered, and in an effort to grow enough food to cover loose ends, she filled their tiny yard with plants. The seedlings grew from discarded plastic containers and cartons that dangled from trees, and through their heroic struggle, they inspired Matovu with a dedication to alleviate hunger from the world. As an adult, the first in his family to attend and graduate from school, Matovu decided that he was going to do something about the struggles of many families like his own throughout Uganda. That’s why he started Vertical & Micro-Gardening (VMG): a way to reduce waste emissions and provide poor Ugandan families with an opportunity for both income and survival.

Image taken from video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=143-KHU685M&feature=youtu.be

What is Vertical Micro-Gardening?

Vertical & Micro-Gardening (VMG) is an urban farming start-up business based in Kampala, Uganda. VMG is the brainchild of Matovu, who talks enthusiastically about the opportunities his work offers to families in need throughout Uganda. “Making urban farming a viable micro-enterprise for low-income households and robustly contributing to climate resilience are our core goals,” Matovu says, discussing how VMG is able to both help those in need and combat the effects of a damaged climate (2). As VMG’s main line of work, they create and distribute vertical gardens to families throughout communities in need. 

Image taken from video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=143-KHU685M&feature=youtu.be

Dinner from the Back Yard?

VMG’s flagship vertical gardens are small engineering miracles created from stacked soil beds. The vertical gardens resemble small, square wooden towers with plants exploding from holes in all sides, easily accessible for harvest and care. Their vermicomposting cores use earthworms to process biodegradable household wastes into nutritious compost for growing plants (3). The composting cores make the entire fertilizing system completely independent and also significantly reduces the extra waste that a community naturally generates. Even though each vertical garden only occupies 3’x3’ of ground space, every unit contains 36 square feet of soil in total at impressive efficiency. VMG’s gardens can support up to two hundred crops with ease and fit neatly into the smallest corner of a back yard, optimizing water usage, productivity, and space. If the farmers decide to sell their crops, they can earn as much as $355 (U.S. currency) in every single production cycle (2). Vertical gardens can even allow farming throughout every season, meaning their use won’t be limited by the time of year. For hungry families without resources or space in the yard for conventional farming and gardening, VMG’s vertical gardens fulfill an essential need. 

Why VMG Matters

All that vanishing farmland has a very real impact on the future, and there’s only so much that anyone can do about it. That’s why sustainability farming is becoming more and more important. Sustainability farming focuses on preserving and managing the environment, minimizing pollution, and working towards biodiversity (4). In a world where natural resources are so constantly being depleted, sustainability can only grow in significance. VMG’s vertical gardens contribute towards sustainability goals by minimizing waste and water consumption, composting natural resources, and creating healthy soil. For Ugandan communities that might not have a lot of options to work towards sustainability, vertical gardens are an easy way to educate people about environmental goals with satisfying results.

Impact of VMG and Vertical Farming

As of right now, VMG has already entered the lives of over 600 families and channeled countless pounds of household waste into productive farming instead of environmentally damaging landfills. Their new goals for the future include scaling up their impact to provide food and income for people in Ugandan slums, helping to compost over 28,800 kgs of waste and educating Ugandans about environmental sustainability (1). VMG seeks to impact communities with long-term production goals and environmental health in mind, continuing to change lives through the work of their volunteers and partners. VMG doesn’t just contribute the necessities for bare survival to the families receiving vertical gardens: they offer hope. For these families, vertical farming is an opportunity to proactively change their lives for the better. In this way, VMG’s work looks to a future with continued brighter opportunities. 

The Bigger Picture

VMG is just one of many environmentally-focused projects currently underway by IDEAS For Us Uganda. IDEAS For Us Uganda, the first international branch of IDEAS For Us, has spread throughout Uganda since its small beginning in Kampala and brought together dozens of communities through their projects and voice. Their goals? According to their website page, IDEAS For Us Uganda aims to “educate; engage; and empower people of all ages in humanitarian and environmental sustainability” (5). They face pollution, deforestation, poaching, drained wetlands, and many other environmental issues. But Uganda’s IDEAS For Us leaders continue undaunted, interacting with the community to organize solutions to environmental crisis and educate future leaders. Right now, IDEAS For Us Uganda is working to provide clean drinking water, plant trees and perform cleanups, address malnutrition, address the lack of healthcare for children through mobile clinics, and improve harvests through irrigation – all this plus the vertical farming project. IDEAS For Us Uganda wants to provide more than temporary solutions, they want to engage every generation of Ugandans in environmental sustainability and education. 

What Can You Do?

IDEAS For Us Uganda and the VMG project need support to accomplish their goals, and you’re part of that – we can’t do it without you.  Click here to donate to the vertical farming project in Uganda! Your money will help IDEAS For Us Uganda deliver vertical gardens to families in need at no cost. You can learn more about Uganda vertical farming here.

Sources Cited:

  1. https://ideasforus.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/1-Uganda-Vertical-Farm-proposal-2019.pdf
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=143-KHU685M&feature=youtu.be
  3. https://www.ecomena.org/vermicomposting/
  4. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/what-sustainable-agriculture
  5. https://ideasforus.org/branches/uganda/