Wageningen University ACT Program and Awesome Blossoms Safe Spaces

    In November of 2023, Peninah Nthenya Musyimi and Allan C'oredo toured Wageningen University in the Netherlands and met with representatives of the ACT (Academic Consultancy Training) internship program. They applied for and have been selected by the students to be the field project for the program’s May–July 2024 cycle. 

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    The application definition of the project and its objectives:

    Awesome Blossoms: Urban farming for community empowerment in Nairobi

    General introduction of the problem:
    Among the 75% of Nairobi’s population that lives in the slums, young women continue to be the most severely affected by poverty, violence and systematic exclusion.
    Safe Spaces Organization (SSO), a girls’ and women’s education and empowerment program in Nairobi’s Eastland slums, has recently kickstarted the project “Awesome Blossoms,” which consists of building three organic hydroponic urban farms and a Centre of Expertise (for vocational training) to advance food security, strengthen women’s
    economic autonomy and help fund SSO empowerment programs in a way that is environmentally and economically sustainable. Given increasing costs and shortage of food due to climate change, war and supply chain issues, these farms can mean the difference between eating and malnutrition. The income the women micro-entrepreneurs earn can mean not having to choose between feeding their families or sending their children to school. Long term, the needs are even greater. As climate change dries cropland and rural people migrate to the slums, this solution offers ways to employ and feed them. The greater goal of Awesome Blossoms is to create a model that can be expanded in Nairobi and potentially replicated in slums around the world. SSO launched an urban farm pilot in April 2019. They trained 15 SSO Peer Educators and 72 women micro-entrepreneurs to use hydroponic systems to produce organic food for low-income households.

    Peer Educators gained vocational training, and women from the community gained knowledge, food and economic independence. Schoolchildren had vegetables for their lunches. And SSO learned what worked and how to overcome challenges. Building on the pilot experience, Awesome Blossoms wants to expand and professionalize the farms and to develop the Centre of Expertise in urban farming and entrepreneurship. With three new locations, the farms will be self-sustaining and be able to contribute funding for SSO programs.

    The ACT team is asked to research farming and entrepreneurship models suitable for the Awesome Blossoms project and to provide advice on the most suitable practices to ensure the successful implementation of the program.
    The following questions form a starting point:

    •  What are strengths and weaknesses of the current hydroponic farming system? What are suitable systems to fulfil the goals of the Awesome Blossoms project?
    • What produce needs to be grown in the farms to provide nutritious food that is relevant to the community while also becoming profitable?
    • How can the Awesome Blossoms project’s impact on the community be measured?
    • What are the limitations and opportunities of the Awesome Blossoms model? What are its vulnerabilities, and how can it be made more resilient?
    • What are other possible activities or strategies that would improve the current model?
    • How can the Awesome Blossoms model be extrapolated to other low-income communities? How can it be made replicable?

    In-depth discussion about the Awesome Blossoms project and technical challenges

    • The WUR teams are addressing the challenges of Awesome Blossoms from different perspectives: one team focuses on the socio-economic aspects to identify challenges, while the second team is working on the technical side (systems, plant health, and innovations).
    • The gender lens is applied by both teams.

    PHOTO 2024 05 16 06 04 47We are all very excited about this opportunity Safe Spaces has to engage WUR’s cross-discipline teams on the ideas and issues that Safe Spaces deals with in their challenging environment. Although this ACT project is not a FAWCO project, we announced it to FAWCO because WUR was interested in Safe Spaces’ social enterprise, which includes their urban farming model that is supported by education. This model is the Target Project Awesome Blossoms.PHOTO 2024 05 16 06 04 51

    A contract was signed between Safe Spaces and WUR with specific roles, deliverables, processes, and communication protocols.

    It is important that FAWCO members please respect WUR protocols and not make direct contact with WUR or any of their team members throughout this process. Thank you.

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