Micro-gardens for improved food and nutrition security

Place: senegal, Africa
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 800.000,00 | Period: From January 1999 To December 2006


The Microgardens project's objectives were to reduce poverty and malnutrition; increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables for poor families in urban and peri-urban areas where land is limited; and generate income when surplus production is sold.

The microgarden technology is adopted by all social categories: the poor and the rich, men and women, young and elderly, and people with handicaps.

More than 4000 families were trained.

This technology also had a positive environmental impact since it promoted the recycling of agricultural waste to solid substrate (nothing is lost, everything is transformed), the use of drop by drop irrrigation and rainwater harvesting, and the produce from microgardens is more wholesome, as pesticides are not used.

The microgardens also serve as an education support for environmental education in schools and colleges.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) - Italy

Lead applicant

Government of Dakar / Municipality of Dakar - Senegal

Initiative partner

It is the municipality of the City of Dakar. It is composed of the mayor and five deputy mayors.

Government of Senegal / Ministry of Agriculture - Senegal

Initiative partner

The ministry of Agriculture of Senegal.

Milan City - Italy

Initiative partner

Micro-gardens for improved food and nutrition security. It aimed to improve access to fruit and vegetables for city dwellers with limited resources and no access to land. The loss of agricultural land within and around cities due to continuous population expansion threatened livelihoods of fragile groups. The Dakar micro-garden project, started in 1999, aimed to increase local availability and consumption of nutritious food through autonomous production. It also promoted environmental sustainability through composting and water saving technologies. Urban inhabitants produce fresh vegetables, improve food quality, broaden income sources, and had access to agricultural activities. Since 2009, it diversified production to improve nutrition and enhance commercial activities by opening shops to market products. An administrative unit was established in the Municipality of Dakar to manage, enhance capacity building and secure sustainability of the programme after external funding ceases.

Microgardens are based on low-cost and low-energy technologies that are environmentally friendly and ensure low input sustainability.

These small production units can yield a wide range of vegetables, roots and tubers, and condiments in small areas (patios, balconies and rooftops).

Yield levels by unit of water and fertiliser are higher than conventional gardening.

They provide a harvest within 45 - 90 days and are innovative (recycling soluble nutrients of drainage water).

Non-chemical means are used to avoid the use of pesticides. Microgarden products can offer the highest standard of food safety (zero residues).

They integrate horticulture production techniques with environmentally friendly technologies suited to cities: rainwater harvesting, recycling household garbage for sustainable soil or substrate fertility management, and reusing agricultural waste (peanut shells, rice hulls).

Microgardens are introduced in schools as learning tools and to advocate vegetable consumption.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf With micro-gardens, urban poor “grow their own” Urban and peri-urban horticulture.

The project was introduced in Dakar in 1999 within the framework of a Technical Cooperation Programme between the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Senegalese Government.

Dakar’s population has grown rapidly.

Droughts at the end of the 60s contributed to the rural exodus.

Pressure on agricultural spaces limited access to farmland by fragile groups.

This urban growth was accompanied by high levels of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity.

It created a challenge for the government with a large, vulnerable population that is socially excluded, young and unemployed.

A main factor limiting vegetable consumption in poor neighbourhoods of the city is the inadequate availability (resulting in high prices).

Lack of financial means make the situation detrimental.

Microgardens can make a big difference for urban poor who spend up to 80% of their income on food.

They can produce part of the food and become less vulnerable to volatile food prices, earning money when selling surplus.

By involving different categories of actors, the project achieved highly sustainable impacts.

An integrative network was established among governance actors – national administrative authorities, local governments, NGOs, and civil society.

A special division for urban agriculture was created in the Dakar Municipality Department of Urban Development in 2007 to reinforce sustainability of the project and network.

One of the project’s success is the diversity of crops grown and the high vegetable productivity achieved by microgardens.

Marketable crop yield surpluses contributed to strengthen families’ financial autonomy.

Environmentally, the project achieved noteworthy results, such as recycling agricultural waste as a solid substrate, using old wood and other material to build table gardens, and by resettling unused space.

The educational impact was providing schools and colleges access to microgardens. Institutionalisation and integration was also achieved.

Overall, the Dakar micro-garden programme reached over 4000 families.

The beneficiary selection was done through the economic interest groups, often composed by women.

The selection criteria included their degree of poverty and their motivation to participate in the project.

Nevertheless, training was free to anyone. Individuals or people belonging to private institutions outside the project only had to pay the costs of equipment.

The initiative originates from the Mayor of the City of Dakar in consultation with the Directorate of Horticulture within the Ministry of Agriculture in Dakar.

Successively at the project design and implementation stage, other partners have joined, including the national ONG COOPI, the Senegalese Institute for Agriculture Research (ISRA) the Italian NGO ACRA as well as the University of Milan (UNIMI).

The funding of the project was shared between the Italian Development Cooperation and the cities of Milan and Dakar.

In the field the project was implemented by a coordinator of the UPH unit within the Municipality under the responsibility of a network of 19 technical supervisors in the training and Demonstration Centres located in the Socio-Cultural Centres in located in each of the 19 municipalities of the city of Dakar.

Within the implementation process, some constraints evolved regarding the high demand for training the access to equipment and supplies.

The existence of only one reference garden site at the beginning of the project minimised capacities to train beneficiaries.

The demand for advisory services could not be met until the beneficiaries were structured into interest groups.

Environmental friendly techniques were used, such as:

  • recycling agricultural waste to solid substrate example of the mixture of 60% peanut hulls and 40% rice hulls;
  • using household worn utensils (basins, buckets) or tyres and polystyrene boxes;
  • water and soluble plant nutrients are saved by recovery of the drainage water.

Since microgardens are posed in patios, on balconies and roof tops, in the immediate they reduce the need to transport produce into cities, allow fuel savings and a related reduction in gas emissions and air pollution.

It has been established that rooftop gardens can:

  • absorb heat and act as insulators;
  • decrease air pollution;
  • reduce the energy needed for cooling or heating;
  • provide low-cost food and often also a source of revenue.

In Cairo buildings with rooftops planted with vegetables are 4°C cooler than those next door with a bare roof.

The technique of micro-gardening does not require expensive material or intense training; it can be easily implemented and transferred to other environments.

The micro-garden technology is adopted by all the social categories: the poor as well as the rich, men and women, young and elderly, and people with disabilities.

The micro-garden initiative received the UN-Habitat/Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment 2008.

This initiative has proven to be an effective technology for improving the diet of and generating modest income for the urban poor.

By developing and intensifying partnerships with a broad scale of actors, the programme succeeded in improving and extending techniques in other areas and contexts, including schools, hospitals and refugee camps.

Partnerships were established with:

  • American Peace Crops;
  • Oxfam UK;
  • Resource Centre for Social and Participative Emergence;
  • LEGTA, Figeac, France;
  • Pugnac Learning Centre, France;
  • SOS Sahel International / Louga and the Association of Professors in Life and Earth Sciences.

The project has expanded to:

  • Mali;
  • Niger;
  • Mauritania;
  • Madagascar;
  • Eritrea;
  • Namibia;
  • Bolivia;
  • Guatemala;
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Rwanda;
  • Burundi.

Microgarden projects generally benefit from partnerships between the Municipality as leader, technical divisions within the Ministry of Agriculture, NGO’s, agriculture research centres, universities and private sector for the supply of inputs.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf City-to-city cooperation for urban and peri-urban horticulture Urban and peri-urban horticulture.