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Extending the Garden

Emeka Okafor is an entrepreneur and consultant. A founding partner of Caranda Ventures, parent company of Caranda Teas and Caranda Coffee. He is also the founder of the publically acclaimed blog Timbuktu Chronicles. Emeka sits on the global advisory board for Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) and was recently named a Sun Microsystems participation fellow at Poptech. He is also a founding member of the IPEGroup.

refugee_woman.jpg The Urban and not so Urban market garden, a common feature of revitalized western cities, has even greater potential for the poor and nutrient deficient of the developing world. From the adoption of mini-livestock to a re-acquaintance with indigenous vegetables, the promise of gardening as a self-empowering nutrition tool has yet to be fulfilled.

Backyard Animal Farming, a practice that goes hand in hand with the small vegetable lot, has been overlooked as a mechanism for solving the shortfalls in protein production. The neglect of indigenous and adaptable flora and fauna had consequences that ranged from unsustainability to warped local economies. A 'rediscovery' and re-validation of these methods and means will go a long way in remedying these mistakes, filling the belly and inspiring the mind.

The Snail and the Goat
The Giant African Land Snail -- a delicacy in most parts of West Africa, a 'pest' in the US (Achatina fulica, Achatina marginata and Achatina Achatina) -- exhibits livestock qualities that are profound. Its food input needs are almost any vegetable and or fruit remains, moisture, darkness and a calcium source. Already an export product in Ghana, 'GALS' could conceivably turn children and adults with very limited resources into livestock breeders and traders. For those with more acreage to spare, the Nigerian Dwarf Goat "can produce a surprising amount of sweet milk for her small size." A star in goat breeding circles within the US, its potential has yet to be harnessed fully in the countries of origin. As a source of rare dairy products across the region, its promise is hardly tapped.

Urban Vegetable Platter
The successes of urban gardeners such as Doudou Diallo’s "small – and amazing - organic vegetable and fruit garden," need to be heralded in societies "where city dwellers may spend as much as 70 percent of their income on food." Diallo's bountiful harvest, attained with the usage of "compost from manure, garden wastes and leaves," are a testiment to the efficacy of home grown solutions. The re-emergence of previously neglected indigenous vegetable farming continues to be another practical plank in the fight for a nutritious diet that is sustainable. "Leafy vegetables are seen as an ally in the fight against hidden hunger, whether they be wild or cultivated, and produced by lianas, tubers or trees. Leafy vegetables offer populations with limited access to meat or fish a rich source of protein, which is essential for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as for young and growing children."

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Enjoyed the post. I'm curious about snail "livestock" and will need to read all the links supplied (the "Raising Snails" site will take a bit and the one link to the "mini-livestock" url isn't available atm). One element of interest to me is that I'm wondering what is done with the snail shell. How is it currently recycled? Does it have properties of interest which can be used elsewhere and thus spawn another source of income?

Plus, I have to admit, the image shown here intrigues me; in particular, the buckets. The designer in me is thinking there is a better solution which might make the work required more efficient. Something for me to consider further.

Posted by: csven on 26 Apr 06

The topic of urban food production and income generation via urban agriculture seems to be more and more on the agenda of both local and global institutions and fora. One example is the UN Habitat World Urban Forum to be held this June in Vancouver, Canada.

An extensive online resource on urban agriculture is the website of RUAF (Resource Centres for Urban Agriculture and Food Security) at On this website you also find the online version of the Urban Agriculture Magazine.

Posted by: Dorine Ruter on 26 Apr 06

Given that these are known intermediary stage disease vectors wouldn't their growing as livestock and the attendant concentrating of their population levels serve to create more pestilence than protein calories? On the other hand escargot for dinner every night sounds pretty good.

Posted by: Ed on 27 Apr 06

Mr. Okafor, thank you for an outstanding post. I think this is exactly the kind of work to be pursued for billions of people. Protein, its connection to nitrogen, and our current reliance on synthetic nitrogen are among the most daunting problems we face.

Posted by: David Foley on 27 Apr 06

Very interesting! Thanks for the great post.

I'm curious if anyone has compiled a list of different backyard gardening / animal farming schemes like this, from all over the world? What *is* the potential for backyard farming for producing protein, and what are the most appropriate techniques for different climates, ecosystems and cultures?

These examples from Africa are fascinating. What are some examples from East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, North America, Europe? Perhaps this information has already been compiled someplace?

And how could people encourage this idea spread?

In my own home town (Madison, Wisconsin), more and more people are raising chickens in their backyard garden -- for eggs, meat and so on. Some folks are also raising rabbits, for fiber, meat and pets. While Wisconsin is hardly deficient in protein sources (bratwaurst anyone?), it's nice to see the "grow local" solutions start to consider direct protein sources as well.

Again, thanks for the great post. This is the kind of home-grown solution that could indeed be WolrdChanging.

Posted by: Jon Foley on 27 Apr 06

Can't trackback to this from my site (too much spam!) but a shout-out to Emeka. Great post - I especially liked the link between business, health, and the environment. That's the kind of ecosystems approach we need.

I have also blogged about it here:

Posted by: Rob on 4 May 06



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