Some days it’s just their mother who does not eat, these are the bad days. On other days, the older siblings also sacrifice so that the little ones get a little more, those days are worse. Then there are the worst days, the days when the hungry little ones cry themselves to sleep, on those days the moms and dads living in extreme poverty silently cry too.
This is the face of food insecurity at its worst. When parents cannot feed themselves and their children, the sense of hopelessness surrounding their poverty can be overwhelming. For many in our Mawewa School family, our feeding program is not just a nice perk of being a part of our school, but is essential for their families survival. But at eduKenya we are interested in more than just the survival of the families we serve in Mathare. We want to see them thrive!
Our desire is that Mathare would be transformed into a safe, healthy and sustainable community in which the cycle of poverty and despair is broken.
Food insecurity can be defined as an inadequate amount of quality food to ensure proper nutrition and a healthy active lifestyle for family members. Food justice on the other hand, is access to healthy, locally grown, culturally appropriate food. It involves revolutionizing the entire food production chain, creating living wage jobs for workers involved in food production from the farmers all the way to restaurant or food processing plant workers. The concept of food justice involves a complete change of our mindset about food. It’s not just about filling empty bellies; settling on less healthy, energy dense food to feed the undernourished, it’s about going a step further as we educate and improve access to nutritious foods. It’s about changing our mindset about food production and elevating the value we place on those whose work involves getting dirty.
Food justice is a large, multifaceted and complex issue worldwide, but at eduKenya, we have kept it simple. We simply asked “What can we do?” “What tools do we have in our hands?” The answer, “an adaptable curriculum, and a passion for a transformative education that seeks to empower the community in which we work.”
Out of this passion, our organic farming initiative at Mawewa High School began. Organic farmers from Mathare, that’s not something you hear every day. But that is what food justice is all about. We adapted our agricultural curriculum at Mawewa High School in Naivasha, so that over the past year, our Form 1 and 2 students received practical experience in organic farming. It was a long year of hard work. With the help of our school caretaker, the students Agriculture teacher, Mr. Frederick Ndunda, and some guidance from Stella Ndiho, an organic farmer, nutritionist and eduKenya staff member, our students participated in the entire farming process. From creating a compost heap using our schools food waste, to clearing bushes and digging up the hard fallow ground. Then fencing the farm, keeping out the wild bunnies and neighbors cows and chickens. And finally, dividing the farm into small garden beds, planting spring onions, spinach, kale and cabbage.
The students hard work paid off, producing delicious and nutritious organically grown fresh vegetables which supplemented the Mawewa High School diet. There was so much produce, that a few weeks ago the Mawewa Primary school also enjoyed some organic cabbage and kale.
Our students, majority who have grown up in Mathare households that experience food insecurity every day, are all so proud of their achievement. One of these students is Daniel Kimanzi. Since he was a little boy growing up in Jangwani Mathare, Daniel has had a passion for farming and a desire to improve his family’s rural farm to produce enough food to support his family. But while living in extreme poverty in Mathare, his desire to farm seemed like a pipe dream. There is no space to play in Jangwani, much less farm. When Daniel joined Mawewa High School in January 2017, his dreams suddenly seemed possible. For Daniel, stepping into the organic gardening beds, getting his hands dirty learning to sustainably farm without the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, the possibilities now seem endless.
The future of food security and food justice in Mathare lies in the hands of students like Daniel. To sustainably feed those living in extreme poverty cannot be done with quick fixes, but will require long term transformative educational programs and farming initiatives. The Mawewa High School organic garden is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine clean neighborhoods, community gardens, readily available clean drinking water, grey water recycling, green spaces, these may seem unattainable now, but through collaborative programs and with the right education and support, the children of Mathare can move from simple survival to a thriving sustainable community of responsible citizens that revolutionize their neighborhoods.