Food Security: Varsity Don Advocates for Home Gardening, Says Food Scarcity Looms

Dr. Mabel Ifeoma Onwuka, a registered Soil Scientist of the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science and an Associate Professor of Soil Chemistry of the Department of Soil Science and Meteorology, College of Crops and Soil Sciences, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, and the Founder of Hope for Farmers, Women and Girls Initiative, has emphasized the importance of home garden in attaining food security in Nigeria.

Dr. Mabel Ifeoma Onwuka, during a farm demonstration with school girls.

Dr. Onwuka who stated this recently in Umuahia, Abia State in a chat with National Ambassador disclosed that her Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) seeks to impact lives/livelihoods of farmers, women and girls. This she is doing by building the capacities of farmers through trainings based on reliable research findings, improving family nutrition through training of women on home gardening, and encouraging girls in Primary and Post-Primary Schools to develop passion for Agriculture by instituting an award for the best performed girls in agriculture in some schools.

Dr. Mabel Ifeoma Onwuka, sensitizing rural women on home-garden and agricultural-related issues recently.

In her words: “There is a huge need to train farmers on modern agricultural practices that are famers friendly in other to improve yields and also encourage the establishment of home gardens especially now that food scarcity looms with the deteriorating security situations in the country’.

Dr Mabel Onwuka, started the home garden on a small scale five years ago, but intensified it during the Covid -19 global pandemic locked down. Ever since then, she has stopped buying vegetables such as water leaves, lettuce, mint leaves, amaranthus (green), fluted pumpkin (ugu), pepper among others from the market. This is because she now grows them in her home garden; able to save some money, have enough vegetables to eat and share with friends.

Dr. Onwuka, distributing free farming inputs/materials to rural women during a sensitization campaign recently.

According to Onwuka, she uses old plastic containers, water proofs and bags to plant seeds. She uses the waste generated from her kitchen and fish pond to fertilize the crops, there by promoting waste recycling and management. She listed the benefits of the home-garden to include; i. constant supply of fresh and nutritive vegetables to family and friends, ii. Utilization of spaces within the compound, iii. Maintaining of a healthy environment with less carbon-dioxide in the air as plant utilize them for food production, iv. having a bodily exercise v. saving huge amount of money spent on buying vegetables especially during the off seasons. vi. adding beauty to the compound. Others include; using it to teach children gardening, means of recycling plastic containers and bags that would have been littered on the streets.
In order to reach out to the wider community, who are not farmers but loved to own a garden, Dr Mabel created a Facebook group where she and other experts post on various ways of setting-up, managing home gardens and share seeds for planting.

Contributing, Dr. Patricia Ukegbu of the Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Michael Okpra University of Agriculture Umudike Abia State, said that she was encouraged into Home Garden by Dr. Mabel Onwuka. She now grows fluted pumpkin (ugu), Efo, Soko, minit leaves, and water leaf among others. The home garden, she said; has offered her the opportunity of meting her daily vitamins and mineral requirement as well as save huge amount of money earlier mapped out for vegetable purchase.

Dr. Ann Nkeiruka Kanu (Ph.D) of National Root Crops Research Institute Umudike Abia State, said that her going into home garden was born out of desire to give her family organic and vegetables fresh from the farm. Vegetables and other plant which, are free from chemical, microbial, contaminations with less exposure to sunlight thereby retaining it natural and nutritional compositions. The nutritional content of our vegetables can’t be ascertained based on the distance, the poor handling conditions they undergo before they get to us so having considered all these, she decided to have my home garden. She also said that she was motivated by Dr M.I. Onwuka through the post and video clips on Home and Micro garden Facebook group page to really get started.

Dr Anne Kalu in her garden.

Mrs. Azubuko Joy a primary school teacher at Amuzukwu Primary School Umuahia, has called on others to join the home garden revolution, in order to ensure food security in the society as it requires minimal farming organic inputs. She was among those who were encouraged to set up their own home garden through the activities posted on the Home and Micro-garden Facebook group page. She informed the National Ambassador during a chat with her that she now saves up to N5,000 monthly from buying vegetables from the market.

In a similar development, Dr Tochi Floxy Obani, a trained Plant Pathology in the Department of Plant Health Management of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, said that she embarked on home gardening using bags and a small land space in her compound. She is part of the Home and Micro garden Facebook group. She encourages everyone to have a home garden because there are many benefits in it.

Dr Tochi Obani in her garden

Dr Ifeoma, who further revealed that she was born in a research institution and this had a great influence on her passion for agriculture. She set up the NGO to help transmit her research findings to the farmers within the immediate communities to the University. This she said is part of her contribution to community development, as the three core areas of academics are teaching, researching and community development. In the last three years, the farmers in some communities in Ikwuano, Umuahia South and North Local Government Areas have benefited from her trainings on soil fertility management, compost, biochar, organic fertilizer making and free distribution of biochar (an organic soil amendment) to the resource-poor farmers.

She urged government at all levels to pay more attention to agriculture and further added that if everyone should start a home garden in their homes, it will help in cutting down cost, as the cumulative aggregate of the home gardens would lead to food security in various homes and in Nigeria at large. It will also help to create a clean and green environment.

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