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40-Bed Unit: A Story of a Young Woman during COVID
By Simon Nyaga

Simon Nyaga is the Director of Bold Impact Africa ( promoting sustainable and climate-smart agriculture by training small-scale farmers to use GROW BIOINTENSIVE, as well as environmental conservation, childhood and youth development, advocacy and community development, policy development and promoting entrepreneurship and income-generating activities for women and youth groups. He holds degree in Community Resource Management and Extension (BSc. CRM) from Kenyatta University, and learned GB at the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Centre of Kenya (G-BIACK) in 2016. Simon worked as Policy, Lobby and Advocacy officer at National Potato Council of Kenya where he represented the NPCK in lobby and advocates for poor farmers to access inputs and markets.

I was employed as a policy and lobby officer in one of the national NGOs in Kenya. When COVID-19 hit our country early in January 2020, I was laid off, together with my colleagues. I stayed home for 5 months wondering what to do as the effects of this new pandemic escalated. One day in May, 2020, I received a call from a friend who had seen me practice GROW BIOINTENSIVE (GB) in a small rented space. He wanted to learn more about this new form of sustainable agriculture and practice on his farm. He was not in the country but wanted me to train his sister, Njoki, on how to establish a GB unit in his farm. Njoki, to my amusement, was very committed and eager to learn, so I began by teaching her how to do deep soil preparation. Together, we marked out a one 10m2 bed. We double-dug 60 cm deep together and to her it was all fun. She kept stepping inside the bed and I was happy to remind her, with deep patience that she shouldn’t step inside a double-dug bed.

NjokiOn the second day, we sourced compost from outside the farm. I told Njoki that it’s important to grow her own carbon crops to avoid depleting other soils and I saw her writing that in her notebook. Next, we transplanted vegetable seeds from a local nursery using the diagonal method and I could see she was always tempted to plant using the conventional straight line. Njoki was impressed how we managed to transplant 99 kale seedlings in the bed using this close spacing method. She told me if it was her, she would have transplanted only 50 seedlings in the same bed. In the following week, we double-dug, added compost, transplanted, and watered 5 more beds. By the end of the week, we sat and evaluated what we had done, and we were both impressed (the image below is the farm at the end of the first week - Njoki is in blue at the top). Before leaving the farm, I ask her how many beds she was willing to double-dig, based on what she had learned and experienced. She said ten. I told her that’s fine if she is willing to continue learning and practicing. After a month, I called her and asked her how many beds she had double-dug and to my shock, she reported that she had made a complete 40 bed unit!

Once you fall in love with GROW BIOINTENSIVE, there is nothing that can stop you. It was a good story in the middle of a biting pandemic.

Njoki's Garden

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