Building community through urban gardens

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: June 12th, 2018

The Dirt to Power Initiative – created by EARTH graduates Blessing Chukwuaja (’17, Nigeria) and Victoria Adelye (’17, Nigeria) – was selected as a finalist in the Ford College Community Challenge, a contest sponsored by the Ford Motor Company.

Of the 20 projects competing in the final round, the Initiative could become one of the 10 to win USD $25,000 to help expand their projects.

The Dirt to Power Initiative’s idea is simple: to educate underprivileged local residents – principally women and young people, and currently in Nigeria and Costa Rica – on how to recover local waste materials to construct family gardens and sustainably produce their own food without toxic inputs. In the process, the team hopes to inspire a greater sense of community and shared commitment to problem solving.

A number of EARTH students and graduates are supporting Blessing and Victoria in the project. David Sande (’21, Kenya), Grace Amponsah (’21, Ghana), Komlan Batchey (’21, Togo), Armand Yambisa (’20, Zambia), Ellen Owusu (’20, Ghana), Joseph Chonza (’19, Zambia), Mika Mzumara (’19, Malawi), and Timothy Ayankojo (’14, Nigeria) are all playing an active role in its development.

To tackle a litany of concerns – food insecurity among rural populations, child hunger and malnutrition, low youth participation in agriculture, limited production space within urban areas, dependence on processed supermarket products, economic marginalization – the Initiative’s tactics are three-fold.

Construction of productive parks

These spaces bring agricultural production to public parks, an effort to close the gap between producer and consumer while also creating a learning space for young people and their families. The productive parks will be used to hold family events and trainings, along with demonstrations for tourists desiring to grow their own community’s culture of local food.

Currently, the Dirt to Power Initiative has one model productive park built.  On the grounds of EARTH University (see photo). Source: Dirt to Power Initiative’s Facebook.

Community workshops

Project participants have the opportunity to take part in a free workshop series covering topics such as urban farming, waste classification, value added enterprises and entrepreneurship. Thanks to the knowledge they will glean, involved families can build a small urban garden as a way to generate extra household income. Training sessions offered to tourists will have a small cost used to maintain the gardens and expand the project to other communities.

In the following video, the Initiative team offers a look at its work.

Local competition

To promote problem solving within its member communities, Dirt to Power aims to spearhead an annual food-security-innovation contest in both area schools and neighborhoods. Hopes are that the competition will further serve to attract young people to the study of agriculture.

About the contest

The Ford College Community Challenge is a grant contest that invites university students worldwide to partner with nonprofit organizations to design innovative projects that meet the urgent needs within their communities.

The competition requests fresh and creative project proposals that address a tangible problem and make lives better – either by changing the way people move through intelligent mobility, driving social mobility, or constructing sustainable communities.

The winners will be announced this autumn, and the project will be implemented between that announcement date and summer 2019.

For more details about the Dirt to Power Initiative, visit its Facebook page. To hear the contest winners announced, follow the Ford Blue Oval Network.