Roxana Tiefenbach of Trinity Lutheran Church in Leader, Saskatchewan, recently returned from a Canadian Foodgrains Bank food study tour in Kenya and Rwanda. Part of her travels were sponsored by CLWR. Here she reflects on her introduction to kitchen gardens and how they work better in some communities than others.
People spoke of kitchen gardens often during our travels in Kenya. I understood them and yet I didn’t. Kitchen gardens, grown in the small spaces around a family’s home, are used as a way to increase food supplies and improve nutrition, and they came up repeatedly in the work of the partner organizations we travelled with. The gardens seemed like a good idea, and people were being encouraged to grow them. Yet they were not always working in the way they’d hoped. Elephants trampled the vegetables that had taken so much hard work to plant and families lost their crops.
In the village of Mugogo, Rwanda, I saw how kitchen gardens were intended to grow. In this land of 1,000 hills, crops are planted in tiers and every bit of growing space is valued. Here, families grow a variety of plants like these beet-like plants, whose leaves are eaten as a vegetable. The gardens reminded me of a wedding cake – a multi-tiered growing space. Instead of bare dirt, one to three gardens like these occupied the yard space around their homes. A wall of sticks and often banana leaves was made to hold each layer of ground in place and were watered by household water after the families had finished with it. Finally, I understood kitchen gardens. -Roxana Tiefenbach