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Can A Farm-in-a-Backpack Feed Sub-Saharan Africa?

By Jayne Heimbuch |

kenya farm women photo
Photo via Rachel Zedeck at Changents

Rachel Zedeck moved to Kenya with the intent to help Kenyans feed themselves through eco-friendly farming. Her solution - put everything you need into one backpack. Everything needed to get going on sustainable farming practices is included, and the program is proving to be successful - she and a group of farmers in the Mau Forest, successfully planted12 Hectares using a new distributed production model and supplies from the eco-friendly back pack farming kits. But will this pilot program prove whether or not sustainable farming can feed a country?

How the Mau Forest is farmed is a big deal because of the delicate eco-systems, including Lake Victoria, located in the area. Zedek hopes that the pilot program will illustrate how the new model of farming can help keep the integrity of the area, and feed hungry mouths.

The Backpack Farm Program is a simple idea. You give a person a backpack filled with necessary materials including seeds of drought resistant and local crop varieties, a drip Irrigation Kit, and optional 500 Liter collapsible water tank, Lachlan "Fusion Nutrition Program," plant nutrition in combination with eco-friendly chemistry, Parathyroid-based Malaria Pesticide, small farm tools, customized with the final crop production models, and a six liter chemical sprayer along with training manuals and a journal. You then teach them how to use the contents, and they'll be able to immediately start growing their own food.

There are a lot of variables here, though, that go beyond just contents in a backpack. But Zedek is determined to address them all within the program, and is a Change Agent working to gather support for the project.

From Backpack Farm Project:

The Backpack Farm is not simply a kit of materials but a program encompassing five stages of development designed to support the successful launch and expansion of local agriculture cooperatives or "clusterings" by building real capacity. This five (5) phase model includes:

Phase I: Assessment & Mobilization (SCM)
Phase II: Training & Production
Phase III: Production Monitoring & Market Distribution Strategies
Phase IV: Assessment & Risk Management
Phase V: Expansion through Reinvestment (ensuring transparency, sustainability and natural expansion models within rural sector communities).

The potential to establish food security in the main agricultural areas does will remain favorable. With more than 100 million small landholder farmers in East Africa, agricultural commercial agriculture cooperatives can act as a realistic solution to the region's food insecurity.

Zedeck writes, "[B]y eliminating the need for traditional fertilizers (which damage soil and water tables), and distributing a cost effective drip irrigation system and training on green water management (rainwater collection) techniques, we think the Backpack farm model could actually shift the entire mindset of how to develop rural economies and make a positive impact Africa's food security by empowering rural farmers with access to markets. I know it doesn't seem like such a big deal but we developed an all-in-one package that should costs more than $5,000 and costs less than 1/15."

The idea is intriguing and Zedek is working hard to raise the needed funding - much of which likely depends on the success of the pilot program. You can check out more about the project at Changents and the Backpack Farm Program website.

Hat tip to Jennifer from Changents for the heads up about the project.

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