Updated at: 18-07-2023 - By: Kim Anderson

When post-election violence erupted in Kenya in 2008, food markets were destroyed and prices soared. In response, Solidarités International, a French NGO, designed Garden-in-a-Sack, a low-cost urban gardening system targeting 20,000 households living in the crowded Nairobi slums of Kibera, Mathare, Kiambiu, and Mukuru Lunga-Lunga. Garden-in-a-Sack is a simple three-step process. The sack gardener fills the base of an empty sugar sack with a mixture of loamy soil and manure. Small stones are placed down the center for proper drainage using a small, empty kasuku oil tin. Holes are then cut in the sack for planting kale, spinach, onion, or coriander seedlings. On average, households harvest enough vegetables for four meals per week, improving food security and diet diversification in informal settlements, where food is often more expensive than outside the settlements due to restricted supply.


Having migrated from rural villages, many urban poor possess the skills necessary for urban agriculture. Over 55,000 individuals have become active sack gardeners; and sixty community groups have adopted sack gardening, forty of which are generating modest incomes by selling excess vegetables. Despite challenges posed by limited space, crop and sack damage by animals, pests, and disease, and limited availability to clean soil, manure, seedlings, and water, the sack gardens provide many collateral benefits, such as developing social cohesion and empowering women and marginalized groups.




Solidarités International, with community members from Nairobi area settlements. Kibera, Mathare, Kiambiu, and Mukuru Lunga-Lunga informal settlements, Nairobi, Kenya, 2008–present. Empty sugar sack, loamy soil, manure, stones, oil tin, seedlings