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School Farm Build - Kenya 2023!

Help us bring our job training alumni to Kenya to build a sustainable farm for a school!

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Project Description

The Urban Wild is a New York City-based nonprofit organization (registered 501c3) dedicated to making sustainable agricultural technology more accessible to areas affected by food insecurity. We believe we can educate, empower and ultimately, uplift vulnerable communities out of food-insecure states through the use of localized sustainable agriculture and pathways to opportunities in the green sector.

As climate-caused drought threatens to leave 1.8 billion people in a water-scarce state by 2025, it is crucial that food-insecure communities have the means to utilize growing methods that reduce water consumption (like hydroponics and aquaponics) locally.

Agriculture Technology is a $14 Billion dollar industry that is growing as the demand for sustainable agriculture and controlled-farming systems gain popularity. One driver of this market growth is the rise in water insecurity that is resulting from climate-caused drought globally, coupled with the opportunity to use up to 90% less water for commercial agriculture systems by utilizing farm methods like hydroponics and aquaponics. While demand for technology-enabled food systems that can adapt to climate-caused drought increases, the state of water insecurity in Kenya is becoming more critical and has directly impacted food security for Kenyan people. A joint report from the FAO, UNICEF and World Food Programme's 2020 Food Security report forecasts continued deterioration of livestock, farmland, and arable soil due to the drought that has been damaging farm supply chains in Kenya since 2017.

The Urban Wild aims to address this issue in 2 ways. The first is to bring our agriculture technology job training alumni to Kenya to build out a sustainable farm space (using aquaponic farming practices and integrative technology that can run on solar power) to a school site in Nairobi. The second is to provide training to a local Kenyan farmer, school staff members, and students on how to manage the farm & replicate its practices in Nairobi using readily available materials in their community.

We hope to achieve 3 main goals with this our Apprentice Abroad:

  • Provide community members in Kenya who are directly impacted by food scarcity with a climate-resistant, sustainable food system that yields healthy produce and fish year-round 
  • Equip community members in Kenya who are directly impacted by water scarcity with the necessary skills and tools to build sustainable food systems that utilize up to 90% less water
  • Empower our NYC-based job training alumni with an immersive experience abroad where they will apply the skills they've gained during our job training course & learn firsthand what the issue of climate caused drought is doing to rural & impoverished communities (and the potential impact it can have on global food supply chains)

We are seeking funding to cover the costs of:

  • Materials for the farm build & maintenance (PVC, IBC totes, Pumps, Solar Panels, Sensors, Greenhouse, tools, etc.)
  • A small stipend to assist Kenyan Farm Manager with job transition ($750 per month for 4 months)
  • Flights for staff & alumni to go to Kenya (6 Job Training Alumni, 2 Staff Members, other staff members will be present but will cover their own flight costs)
  • Passports, vaccines & required travel documentation for entry into the country (for job training alumni who do not have these items or the means to cover these costs)
  • Lodging costs for the stay in Nairobi for up to 12 people
  • Food for our apprentices, staff and to share with the students at the school during build days
  • Transportation costs to get to and from the site for build days
  • Shipping costs (for materials that can't be found locally)

    We hope that by making the most affordable, accessible version of advanced farming solutions and skills available to communities at the epicenter of the water and food crisis; that we can develop a scalable food security solution together.

    Thank you for supporting us and our mission to Change Food For Good.


The Campaign FAQs

1. Why Kenya?

This is Sam here. There are a number of reasons why we chose Kenya for our Apprenticeship site. The first being that it is experiencing climate-caused drought and the supply chain impact of water scarcity RIGHT NOW.

In 2018, I had the privilege of visiting Kenya and Tanzania through a similar program that took youth abroad for an immersive experience. In the process, I saw how acres and acres of farmland were going to waste because of the lack of water and arable soil. Entire chasms that used to be filled with water and provided local water sources for farmers were bone-dry when I visited. And you could tell that it wasn't like that until recently by observing the small bit of vegetation that tried to survive the environment. I saw the icecaps of Kilimanjaro melted away (it was more rock & sludge than ice or snow at Mawenzi Tarn Hut). I saw Kenyan children wait for long stretches of time for food from our camp as they hauled barrels of water from miles away. I also saw the resilience, joy and passion of the Kenyan people. No matter what was happening, we were always laughing. When massive rains flooded our tents or the power went out or we had to ration the water we were running out of, we still found joy. While I was in Kenya, I met a woman named Jane Muthoni. She's a farmer, a single mother, and to me, a beacon of strength. After she shared how the drought was impacting her farm, I mentioned how aquaponics or hydroponics may be able to help. Her eyes lit up and her questions soon followed. While we were in Kenya, we had access to food that would normally be extremely difficult for the average person to access - ground beef, spaghetti, spinach, beef stew, and vegetables.

I learned that the primary food source for Kenyans is a dish called Ugali (that I actually loved). It's a cornmeal-based porridge that is mashed into a bowl shape, cut into slices, and serves as the filler for the day. Jane explained that she was one of the few women who worked in Sanitation jobs that typically only hired men. She would eat half the serving of Ugali that she needed, give the lion's share to her kids and that would sustain her through her day. Just a few years ago, Kenya implemented a nationwide food programme that would provide school children with maize & beans for lunch, as part of a push to address malnutrition and increase school attendance/retention. Once I learned how valuable it could be to have fish & greens as supplemental food sources for school kids or to generate income for farmers like Jane, I made a pledge that I'd to return to Kenya and build a farm that could hopefully tackle the issues I saw. 

2. How will you arrange the accommodations in Kenya from NYC?

We're working with team members from Nairobi who are scouting our farm location, communicating with Jane Muthoni (Our prospective Farm Manager) and assisting us with planning and logistics. We work with a Hydroponic Consultant to gather the requirements for the space and create a design that will produce enough food while requiring a minimal amount of resources (power, water, supplies) to build and maintain. Once we have our design full fleshed out based on the space we scouted, we will order the bulk of the materials to be shipped to Nairobi where our partner on the ground will store them until we arrive. Any materials we cannot transport or ship, we will work to bring with us on the flight to Kenya.

3. What is Intro to AgTech?

Intro to AgTech is our interdisciplinary job training program where we equip young adult jobseekers in NYC with technology, agriculture, and construction skills. During their 10-week, 150+ hours of training, participants learn how to design, build and maintain soil-less farm systems (i.e: hydroponics & aquaponics), integrate technology into their farm management, and gain basic construction skills, as well as their OSHA-30 certification. As they train, participants apply all of their new skills to assist us with the build-out of a sustainable farm site for food relief within a food-insecure neighborhood. Once they complete their training, they are then eligible for job placements through our paid internship programs or through our Employer Partner Network. Our alumni also gain access to specialized resources, support, and opportunities - like the chance to go to Kenya to build a farm! 

To date, we've trained 25 participants through our Intro to AgTech programming. This is the alumni pool that will be eligible for our Apprenticeship program, based on their attendance record, assignment completion, and a submission form that will be reviewed by our Selection Committee.

4. Don't you need to know Swahili to do this?

Not really, but it helps. Most Kenyans learn English as a first or second language and in some cases, speak better English than Americans. That said, our staff and alumni will be practicing their Swahili to help build stronger communal bonds and truly immerse themselves in the culture. Kenyans know we don't speak Swahili, but they respect the effort (and like to tease Americans about their accents).



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About the Entrepreneur

Bronx, NY
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