With food supply disrupted by COVID-19, concerns about food security have led to increased interest in growing food at home. This is particularly true for vulnerable communities as indicated by Access Agriculture analysis, which shows that its farmer-training videos promoting backyard farming such as ‘Using sack mounds to grow vegetables’ were among the most popular downloads from its video platform during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“If we could just grow fruits and vegetables around our homes, it could help developing countries like Liberia to become resilient to food supply disruptions,” said Jonathan Stewart, Executive Director of Agro Tech Liberia and Access Agriculture Ambassador. “Stakeholders must promote urban and peri-urban farming to contribute to food security during times of crisis.”
Agro Tech Liberia is a youth-focused organisation that promotes food security and environmental stewardship through capacity development. It raises awareness on climate-smart practices and organises mentoring and training programmes for youth in Liberia relating to agriculture, entrepreneurship, agribusiness and environmental sustainability.
Benefits of backyard farming
Backyard farming offers a practical and low-cost solution for multiple challenges that people are facing today. It can lead to more resilient food systems and strengthen local food production. It also provides an opportunity to make a positive environmental impact. Moreover, the materials needed for it are also relatively cheap and easily accessible.
In cities, it enables people to stay in touch with nature, creating a sense of well-being which can help relieve stress. As families learn to grow fruits and vegetables in their backyards, they can have a healthy variety of inexpensive fresh, nutritious and pesticide-free food that can boost their immune system.
For vulnerable communities, backyard farming not only improves food security, but also provides extra income. It is proving to be a means of self-sufficiency for women during the COVID-19 crisis. By producing vegetables at home for household consumption, they are able to save money and sell the surplus.
Promoting youth involvement in local food production
With so many benefits from backyard farming, Agro Tech Liberia led by Jonathan launched a campaign called ‘Let’s grow our food’ to promote backyard cultivation so that it would help Liberians have access to food during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
As part of this initiative seeds of vegetables were produced and distributed to households with technical and agronomic support. Online training programmes for youth were organised on soil management, selection of planting material and sustainable agricultural practices and relevant farmer-training videos produced by partners of Access Agriculture (www.accessagriculture.org) were shown.
“Our aim is to inspire communities, particularly young men and women as well as students, and eventually the whole country to support local food production in order to achieve food security,” said Jonathan. “We are happy to see that our effort seems to be having an impact and we promise to keep the engagement and discussions going around how we feed ourselves post COVID-19,” he added.
A passionate advocate for active involvement of youth in agriculture and climate-related issues, Jonathan thinks by empowering youth with knowledge and skills to grow food at home, it is possible to ensure continued food security during this crisis and beyond as disruptions to food supplies can take place at any time.
Note: This blog post is dedicated to #WorldSoilDay, which is observed on December 5 every year across the world. Soil is fundamental for a healthy food production. Happy World Soil Day!