Sustaining Urban Food Systems through home pillar gardens: the 'Can Ya Love' Project

Around the world, arable land or land that is suitable for agriculture is dwindling. The rural-to-urban migration and growing cities of the world have constricted the capacity of the rural populations to provide food, for both urban and rural populations. At the same time, our overall world population is increasing, further compounding this problem. How do we feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050? There has been discovery of a novel way to grow more food with less space, while promoting valuable soil through composting.  In the coming years, the world population is expected to be concentrated around urban areas. This translates to increased rural-to-urban migration, essentially constraining food production in the rural areas. This makes it desirable to improve food-production methods which are tailored towards the constricted urban spaces, and which makes it possible to cost-effectively feed the growing urban population.

In Kenya, a US-based not-for-profit social enterprise called CAN YA LOVE (a question; Can You Love? pronounced as Kenya Love), is working with a consortium of local partners, to erect pillar gardens in urban areas such as slums, community land spaces and in schools. The vertical gardens solve another problem too: Accessibility. The wonderful experience that comes with gardening and watching the cycle of life in front of your very eyes, is not always available for those with physical constraints such as, the elderly or disabled. But because the gardens come in multiple ergonomic models, they are nonetheless fully accessible and can be maintained without having to bend over, making it possible for even the disabled and elderly to tend to their home gardens without having to worry about their height. When communities come together, the most basic of needs for people around the world: water and food can be met. The organization is dedicated to helping create the greenest and most sustainable communities in the world by educating people on how to create space and water efficient gardening systems to grow organic food to feed themselves and their community. In addition to this, it targets historically-disadvantaged groups such as at-risk youth, slum-dwellers, the disabled, and elderly.

Their vision is to have unique gardening systems in impoverished urban communities all over the world, where space, access to healthy food, and nutrition are sorely lacking. Impoverished communities in the developing world are the hardest hit by food scarcity issues with the added complexity of poor sanitation. 

They intend to roll-out the project in the largest and most densely populated slum in Africa - Kibera, which is in Nairobi, Kenya and is 30 times more densely populated than New York City. It is known for food shortages, poor sanitation that leads to disease and toxic land that shouldn't be, but is used for agriculture. 

We have created unique vertical gardens to help people all over the world grow food more efficiently.

These space efficient gardens are inexpensive and easy to build. Along with construction, we can teach students, community groups, and others, aerobic composting techniques and soil micro-biology to promote sustainable agriculture and to raise awareness of the importance of healthy soil on human health. The audiences we serve are as wide as humanity itself.

Target Market

The organization works with varied demographics in the urban food project, whereby it erects pillar gardens for institutions with operational structures and individuals. Their fold of clientele includes:

  • Primary and Secondary Schools.
  • Community and Youth Environmental Groups.
  • Municipal/Town Councils.
  • Private Homes.

Revenue Model & Sustainability

A one-time garden set up fee as well as 10% vendor commissions from sold produce, plus a nominal licensing fee for every garden set up are levied, all which are used for expansion and further sustenance of the project. Project proceeds are used in acquiring further resources such as distributor vehicles and truck for food delivery to urban vendors.

Revenue diversification is part of the project’s sustainability strategy. Besides providing a revenue stream for families, schools and youth groups, with a derived revenue stream for it as a project, they intend to venture in the long-term, into vendor supply chains by providing produce delivery to buyers, at a fee. Delivery to market shall be partly met by buyers and partly by sellers. This way, providing funds for operational overheads within the produce supply chains, and thereby generate some income for expansion and further project sustenance.

Can Ya Love-Kenya and friends building a Growing Pillar (Kisumu, Kenya)

The Net Effect

School-Feeding Program and Urban Food Security: The urban-gardening project is intended to reach a good number of primary schools in urban and slum areas in the 3-month pilot phase, which shall thereby provide poor school children and their families, proper, sustained nutrition. The metrics employed in measuring the impact are the pupil indices of reached families, and their school-feeding regime.

Youth employment: Youth make up 80% of the productive, yet unemployed population in Kenya. Through this project, it should open up employment opportunities for urban youth to engage in garden-installations, community and peer-mobilization, supply-chain solutions and produce-vending.

Read more about vertical farming on Cleanleap