Precision Urban Gardening using square-foot food tower models or hanging/ portable models

Saturday, 16 January 2016 - 7:56am
OHCEA Network Country: 
Innovators Onyouth Howard (Left) and Edgar Musiime (right) with a prize winning urban garden in a 3-liter discarded juice can that housed 70 small onion seedlings

The OHCEA Uganda Country Office received funds to support joint proposal development for the Makerere University One Health student club.

This grant worth $600 per project was for educational innovation research conceptualized by multidisciplinary teams of undergraduate students. The projects were community-based, consultative and participatory in nature with each supported by an academic supervisor from the university.

Each multidisciplinary team had at least three different disciplines and the students involved were from the six colleges of Makerere University including Makerere University Business School (MUBS).

Out of the 35 multidisciplinary teams that applied for the grants, 24 were successful after a thorough vetting process that involved written proposals and oral presentations to academic staff from Makerere University and ResilentAfrica Network (RAN). (The latter project based at Makerere University has experience with innovations that develop solutions to address community problems in East and West Africa).

The successful teams underwent training on social entrepreneurship supported by Dr. Leo Sharkley from the University of Minnesota and submitted proposals for further vetting to the One Health Workforce Team at University of Minnesota.

This article concentrates on the research innovations under the theme of: Precision Urban Gardening using square-foot food tower models or hanging/ portable models. Here gardening was done on a limited space of land. This is a solution towards securing fresh supply of vegetables or medicinal herbal plants in an urban area or refugee camp where such crucial items are scarce or expensive.

Team Garden Tower Innovation was led by Ms. Aisha Nabawanuka, B. Commerce (from Makerere University Business School). This unique, vertical, organic, garden system on a space of 300cm x 300cm is being implemented in Makindye II, a suburb of Kampala-Uganda pioneered at a home of Hajati Mariam Kasule. It consisted of a central circular core of small stones to ease water flow and areolation, surrounded by another circular tower of composted soil on which vegetables are planted. The deep root crops (carrots, beetroot are planted at the top of the tower, while the shallow rooters (spinach, kale (sukuma-wiki) Gynandropsis gynandra (Ejjobyo) are planted on the side.

The garden in the early stages and Below; when more mature

 In December 2016, Ms. Aisha Nabawanuka and some members of her team hosted about 25 residents including the Local Council 1 officer in a learning seminar at the garden tower demo site at Migadde stage, Lukuli road in, Makindye II Sub-County. The residents were impressed to see vegetables that could feed the family of about 4-6 individuals being gathered from a small piece of land. They preferred to call it the “food tower” and some residents left determined to start a “medicinal herbal tower” to provide supplements or medicines for primary health care such as Bidens pilosa (used for wounds) alovera (used for wounds, constipation) Momordica foetida schumach (bombo, that relives body odor), rosemary, mint  etc.

On the other hand, Mr Howard Onyouth (B. Wildlife Health Management) led a team with the same urban gardening concept in Butaka-Bukirwa slum in Mulago-1 parish. These residents did not even have 100 x 100cm of soil, therefore their gardens were suspended in discarded plastic containers. Some of these gardens were suspended to roof-tops, on raised platforms outside kitchens out of the reach of goats or chickens. One of the winning ideas was a portable onion garden, with 70 bulbs growing out of a discarded 3-liter juice can. Howard intends to host seminars for the residents in his team to start scaling up the idea soon.

The list of undergraduate innovations is in the table below. There was an exhibition on November 10th at the Grand Global Hotel in Kampala, where the young show-cased their work.

Community training on concepts and principals of the Garden Tower in Makindye II by Ms. Aisha Nabawanuka the Team Leader

 Undergraduate Research Innovations



Team Leader/ Degree/College

Fruti-Cycle OHCEA Submission

Mr Ben Wokorach

(B. Architecture/ CEDAT)

Harnessing Biomass

Mr. Jackson Twebaze Ndahayo

(B. Vet. Med/ COVAB)

Improved Tippy Tap Proposal

Ms. Annet Luyiga (

B. Environmental Health/ Mak-SPH)

Local Honey Extractor

Ms. Deborah Akong

(B. Environmental Health/ Mak-SPH)

Mosquito Trap Proposal

Ms. Lesley Rose Ninsiima

(B. Environmental Health/ Mak-SPH)

Prevention of Animal Plant Disease(farmers mobile app)

Mr. Paineto Masengere

(B. Environmental Health/ Mak-SPH)

Poultry Keeping Support

Mr. David Opio

(B.A. Social Sciences/ CHUSS)

Sustainable Solution to Food (Permaculture?)

Mr. Emmanuel Ntale

(BSc. Conservational Forestry and products technology/ CAES )

The Garden Tower Idea

Ms. Aisha Nabwanika

(B. Commerce/MUBS)

Weather Forecasting Proposal

Mr. Otto Businge

(B. Environmental Health/ Mak-SPH)

Urban Organic Agriculture

Mr. Howard Onyuth (COVAB/WHM)

Rural Water Supply

Mr. Vincent Kayonjo

(B. Agric. Engineering/ CAES)

Sliding Pit Latrine

Mr. Alga Nzoba

(B. Environmental Health/ Mak-SPH)

Bulamu mobile application

Mr. Isa Adam

(B. Biomedical Lab Technology) COVAB/)