Testing vertical garden systems in four schools in Kapchorwa, Uganda

by Saskia Grünwasser (MSc Student, University of Nürtingen)

I am very pleased that I had the chance to participate in a study on testing vertical garden systems’ viability and their potential to improve household food and nutrition security in schools in Kapchorwa, Uganda as part of my Master Program Sustainable Agriculture and Food Economics through a cooperation between the University of Nürtingen and the University of Hohenheim. Together with Cedric Cheptoek, Martha, another student from Makerere University, the support of three motivated boys living in Kapchorwa, and of course many helping hands of the students, we built 24 vertical gardens at four schools in four villages in Kapchorwa District, Uganda, to grow vegetables. Care was taken to ensure that the systems can be constructed with materials on site, so that there is the possibility to rebuild them easily, quickly, and inexpensively. The schools served as project locations for sharing knowledge, exchanging ideas and presenting the gardens as a new concept for growing vegetables. In addition to collecting data on vegetable growing in vertical gardens, we held interactive workshops in the schools and conducted a survey with questionnaires.

Every week I measured the size of the crops, soil temperature and soil moisture, harvested vegetables, took care of the plants and gardens, and observed their development. Apart from that, it was exciting to see which of the three tested garden systems produced the highest yield. Since the gardens can be used as home gardens, we studied whether the south or north side of a house is more suitable for cultivation. For that purpose, a wooden wall, representing a house wall, was put up on each demonstration field.

In Kapchorwa I felt very comfortable. During the research period in the schools, people were very excited about the innovations and told me about the plans to implement the new practices. When it rained during the monitoring activities, the schools invited me for lunch or I became part of the class in the primary and secondary schools. What a luck such rain sometimes was! When it was harvest time in the vertical vegetable gardens, I contributed my freshly harvested leafy vegetables to our lunch. The exchange with the people from Uganda was very exciting. It allowed me to understand their challenges and therefore their hesitation to change. However, through a lot of interest, enlightenment and listening, it was often possible to convince the people of considering new approaches. This educational and unforgettable time during the program of the EaTSANE project will always be in good memory.