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Kitchen Gardens, Composting and Organic Farming in a Ugandan Refugee Settlement

In Bukompe refugee settlement in Uganda, each household is given a plot of land by the government. Local organisation YICE have been working long-term and at scale with the community and brought in Caleb Odondi Omolo, from Sustainable Village Resources in Kenya, for a training project focusing on regenerative food production. YICE and Caleb worked with local residents to build a demonstration kitchen garden as a collaborative workshop where people learnt as they worked together. Following the workshop and seeing the success of the garden, 13 nearby households spontaneously created their own gardens helped by the local owner of the demonstration site, who shared his knowledge and experience. 

In parallel Noah (YICE) and Caleb ran training courses to build compost heaps with 35 refugee farmers, making use of freely available materials like weeds, manure and cooking ash. They also created demonstration sites of lasagna beds and no-dig gardens which grow fertile crops while creating nutrient rich soil.


Bukompe settlement in Uganda is an area where small plots of land are given to refugee families unable to return to their homelands. The pressures of earning a living  with little resources has led to deforestation for charcoal production and degraded soils from monoculture maize and bean fields fed with fertilisers and pesticides. The fertilisers and pesticides are costly and have reduced incomes for farmers and have also degraded soils. Building awareness of organic farming methods, using freely available inputs, has increased the productivity of farm plots and encouraged the creation of household kitchen gardens outside homes.


How can low-input kitchen gardening and farming help communities battling poverty and land degradation? 

"The gardens are designed with nature firmly in mind. Corn is used for mulching, and once broken down by termites replenishes the soil. Banana trees draw in nutrients from the air and ground; spinach, cabbage, and climbing beans create a variety of layers, supporting the whole system as they grow. Everything here has a purpose." - Caleb Odondi Omolo - organic farming and permaculture trainer


  • Rainwater is retained using S-Shaped contours rather than running off and causing erosion. 

  • Growing mixed crops and creating soil through no-dig techniques increases biodiversity while holding water within the landscape. 

  • Creating fertiliser through compost reduces the use of chemical fertilisers which are energy intensive to produce and transport.

  • Using natural and targeted pest control reduces the number of plants, animals and microorganisms killed through pesticide use. 


  • From one demonstration garden, self-motivated, self actuated implementation soon led to 13 more gardens, encouraged by local resident Fred, who has taken on the role of leading the other refugee gardeners, encouraging and mobilising them.

  • With input from YICE, the refugees in this settlement are growing enough to feed themselves, and will soon also be able to sell vegetables at the market. 

  • The diversification of food crops has led to an increase in nutrition. The creation of compost heaps to create fertiliser and Lasagna and no-dig gardens allows diverse crops to be grown without expensive inputs while building fertile soils.

  • 'Waste' charcoal dust from around the site was turned into a resource of free soil-improving bio char.

"I always thought using modern fertilizers is best to improve my productivity but now I’ve changed my thinking. I will create my own compost heap and harvest my own fertilisers." - Owambaze Pelazia - Bukompe resident and farmer


A diverse mix of plants were chosen for the kitchen gardens with multiple benefits like speedy growth, drought resistance, shade enhancement and attractive to beneficial insects.  The gardens are planted to last, with a preference for perennials. Here a self-renewing integrated environment is created, enhancing place as well as feeding people. ​This project is about more than supporting people in need. It’s about empowering people to take control of their own lives, and at the same time regenerate the land. The wellbeing of people, their communities and the environment they live in are all improved in a mutually beneficial cycle.


How could this and other projects develop in the future?

The building of just one demonstration garden led to 13 copied gardens. More demonstration sites showing the successes of kitchen gardens could spark spontaneous growth in community led design and garden building, with support and guidance given from trained people where needed. Through this and similar projects, YICE has trained 158 Farmer Groups, established 40 Permaculture demonstration gardens and increased the income of 669 households. 

This project is being replicated successfully by YICE in the local host communities, who face similar food security challenges.


YICE are working with local people to create an additional 20 organic kitchen gardens and conduct follow-up activities and refresher training to empower people to put the knowledge they’ve learnt into practice.

Get in touch if you would like to know more about creating demonstration kitchen gardens in refugee camps or sustainable agriculture training.


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