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News and Resources

Mazingira Offers Training and Networking to Urban Farmers

News and Resources
By Elizabeth Fraser
In last month’s bulletin, I reported on my visit to the National Cooperative Housing Union (NACHU). I later met with Davinder Lamba, Kuria Gathuru and Diana Lee Smith of the Mazingira Institute, another Rooftops Canada partner in Kenya. Mazingira’s current initiatives include the Settlements Information Network Africa which promotes regional exchange on housing and settlements issues, Operation Firimbi which fights for land distribution and reforms in Kenya, and NEFSALF - the Nairobi and Environs Food Security, Agriculture and Livestock Forum.
Our discussions focused on NEFSALF, which among many other activities provides an intensive week-long training program for people interested in working in urban agriculture. All the course graduates leave with a business plan they can use when they return to their communities. Mazingira also combines knowledge dissemination with ongoing networking opportunities and they use the term – PlanNet – to describe the dual roles of a platform (for knowledge) and a network.
Several support systems have emerged from the NEFSALF training, including “hubs” that assist specific interest groups, such as women and youth. The youth hub, for instance, discuss challenges, best practices and opportunities for youth involved in small urban agriculture businesses. The networking has fostered an impressive community that strengthens the enterprises NEFSALF has nurtured.
NEFSALF reminded me of the Canadian organization, FarmStart, which encourages a new generation of ecological farmers through training courses, access to land, mentorship, tool-sharing, and links to government loan programs. When I mentioned FarmStart to Mazingira staff, they pointed out the similarities. Mentorship opportunities are facilitated between more advanced famers and new NEFSALF participants. And Mazingira helps to connect trainees to government loan programs by partnering with NACHU, which provides the loans for some of the emerging enterprises linked to housing cooperatives.
I was struck by the fact that Mazingira holds human rights and dignity at the forefront of their work. As Executive Director Davinder said, “we see training through NEFSALF as an opportunity to place food within a philosophical and constitutional context.” The new constitution of Kenya recognises “food as a human right’! The work of Mazingira and NEFSALF has influenced the drafting of the Urban & Peri-urban Agriculture and Livestock (UPAL) Policy in Kenya. This will help urban residents to improve their food security.
Elizabeth Fraser works for STOP Community Food Centre in Toronto.