Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 389–404 | Cite as

Urban agriculture, social capital, and food security in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya

  • Courtney M. GallaherEmail author
  • John M. Kerr
  • Mary Njenga
  • Nancy K. Karanja
  • Antoinette M. G. A. WinklerPrins


Much of the developing world, including Kenya, is rapidly urbanizing. Rising food and fuel prices in recent years have put the food security of the urban poor in a precarious position. In cities worldwide, urban agriculture helps some poor people gain access to food, but urban agriculture is less common in densely populated slums that lack space. In the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya, households have recently begun a new form of urban agriculture called sack gardening in which vegetables such as kale and Swiss chard are planted into large sacks filled with topsoil. This paper examines relationships among sack gardening, social capital, and food security in Kibera. We used a mixed methods approach, combining qualitative interviews with a household survey, as well as focus group discussions with both farmers and non-farmers. We present evidence that sack gardening increases social capital, especially for those households that undertake sack gardening in groups. We also find that sack gardening in the Kibera slums has a positive impact on household food security by improving household dietary diversity and by reducing the need to resort to painful coping mechanisms that are used during food shortages.


Urban agriculture Food security Dietary diversity Social capital Kibera slums Kenya 



This research was conducted using support from NSF award BCS-1030325 as well as the Society of Women Geographers Pruitt Dissertation Research Fellowship. We would like to express our sincere thanks to the households that participated in this research project. We are also immensely grateful to Dennis Mwaniki, Catherine Wangui, George Aloo, Joel Boboti, Baraka Mwau, Jack Odero, and Jamie Clearfield who contributed to this project in a variety of ways. The work on this manuscript by WinklerPrins was supported by the National Science Foundation, while working at the Foundation. Any opinion, finding, conclusion, or recommendation expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Courtney M. Gallaher
    • 1
    Email author
  • John M. Kerr
    • 2
  • Mary Njenga
    • 3
  • Nancy K. Karanja
    • 4
  • Antoinette M. G. A. WinklerPrins
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Geography/Women’s StudiesNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA
  2. 2.Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource StudiesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural TechnologyUniversity of Nairobi and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)NairobiKenya
  4. 4.Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural TechnologyUniversity of NairobiNairobiKenya
  5. 5.Department of GeographyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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