By Nuru Ahmed

In a bid to work towards a more sustainable future for farming in the continent, the African Association for Vertical Farming (AAVF) has been launched in Kenya.

The association which is currently in three countries, focuses on helping Africa sustain Africa and providing solutions for unemployment for women and youth through the four pillars: agribusiness; agriculture education and training; research, development, technology and lastly the humanitarian support for the youth and women to empower them in various domains.

Due to high population growth in the world, urbanization, climate change, destruction of natural resources and many other factors, there is need for a global food security in the world. Africa’s population is growing rapidly, currently at 1.2 billion people and this number is estimated to double in the next 30 years. Urbanization is also on the rise 45% of people currently live in urban areas of which 60% live in overcrowded settlements.

Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertically piled layers. It often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimize plant growth, and soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics.

Vertical Farming is an innovative methodology of agriculture currently practiced in Asia, America and United Kingdom. It is a smart way of farming, soilless and favors the youth because they do not want to practice the ‘Shamba and Jembe (gardens and digging)’ agriculture which makes them dirty and is tiresome.

A site visit at Miramar International College to see different types of hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics farming

The AAVF President Mrs. Josephine Favre, said, “There is need to make Africa a better place by nourishing its people (food security). We practice Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2 which is end poverty and zero hunger. Educating people to use various technologies in farming will automatically reduce or end poverty completely.”

Mrs. Josephine Favre noted that farms (vertical greenhouse tunnels) can be built in any area; it can be urban or rural places. It can be done on small plots of land, on roof top of buildings and in slum settlements. This type of farming is good for health, environmental friendly, can sustain any kind of weather thus climate resilient in this era of climate change.

The plants mostly grown in vertical farms are vegetables. It favors horticulture mostly and need less water and space to survive. The plants need fewer pesticides as they rarely get affected by pests and diseases.

AAVF seeks to improve food security and provide a platform for economic empowerment especially for the youth and women through innovative food production practices to alleviate Africa’s growing population, urbanization and climate change challenges.

AAVF will discuss the importance of industry coordination in agriculture, support farmers and their communities through their partners towards food security in Kenya and Africa. For Africa, hydroponics is the fastest method to learn and it is the simplest. Farmers can practice the veggie bag technology because of its simplicity.

AAVF platform will promote members and their businesses by giving them access to a collective voice and supporting them with new opportunities. They will also organize their efforts, collaborate to overcome problems and form partnership that will drive individual success and move the agriculture industry towards a future of food security on the continent.

A sample of crops grown in a soil less farming set-up

Mrs. Favre added that the small holder farmers in Africa are about 80% of whom are women and the way they are practicing agriculture is very unhealthy.

 “In Tanzania and Kenya they are still on the jembe mode ‘digging’ which is unhealthy for the back. Therefore AAVF is putting structures in educational modules to bring these particular agriculture behavior into the industrial revolution so that our women, aunts, uncles do agriculture in a modern way,” she said.

AAVF started in April 2019 in South Africa Johannesburg and has reached many communities, small holder farmers, slums and poor areas.

“We have established gardens especially women so that they have activities to keep them busy. We also establish businesses for young agriculture graduates (agronomists) that have no jobs by creating greenhouse tunnels that can employ various people,” the AAVF president adds.

AAVF’s headquarters is in Switzerland and currently in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. It is to expand in more African countries that is Uganda, Tanzania, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ghana and spread to the whole of the African continent.

Mrs. Favre said, for food security, no more hunger in Africa, vertical farming is the place to be as it feeds the communities faster than the traditional farming. The crops yield is 4 times more than traditional farming. However, there is no need to totally avoid traditional farming because for the sake of food security, we have to survive by sustaining both ways.

Mrs. Josephine Favre said, the youth will not be left out by AAVF as it is there to empower, emotional mentorship, train, retool the skills and connect the youth with companies for eventual employment. By evaluating the youth, they will be placed according to their skills.

Mr. Samson Ogbole the Lead Trainer of Soilless Farm Lab in Nigeria added that, the youth are targeted because they have the energy, knowledge and technology for vertical farming.

“A farmer can plant on multiple layers to save space, maintain the soil, produce all year-round. This makes a reduction in the use of agro chemicals or use in vertical farms,” he said. “This type of farming is youth friendly as you go to the farm clean and come out clean.”

He said a farmer needs only the technology of hydroponics to practice vertical farming. They can grow all year round, the space can be made to produce economic variables because you get more yield from a small area and no need to worry about laborers as one can do the farming on his/her own. He added that this type of farming is climate smart and there will be food security in Africa and the rest of the whole world.