A few steps into Nakivale Police Station compound, one is welcomed by a well-maintained vegetable garden at the left-hand corner.
The police station is located inside Nakivale refugee settlement in Isingiro district.
AIP Faizal Makhoha Bwire, the acting officer in charge (OC) of Nakivale Police Station, says the garden feeds 36 families of police officers and about 15 neighbours including refugee households and families of employees working for different organizations.
It was planted in 2021 by Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment (YICE), an organization that promotes the use of regenerative farming techniques to conserve the environment while promoting food security and healthy living.
The garden has spinach, ntula, eggplants, sukuma wiki, spring onions, beetroot and carrots among others.
Bwire says, apart from improving their health and lives, the vegetables come in handy when they run out of food.
“We stock food from Mbarara city but it’s many miles away. This garden saves us when food runs out,” he says.
On how they maintain the garden, Bwire says, they work hand in hand with YICE agronomists and trainers.
They open it in the morning to harvest, weed, spray and transplant the seedlings. They also water regularly during the dry season. When all is done, they lock the gate.
Bwire keeps the key and another copy is kept by YICE meaning, no body accesses the garden without their permission.
Before, the garden was open to invaders including people and animals such as goats, but this was solved when they fenced it off.
“This is a very good innovation. Many individuals and organizations come here to benchmark. I encourage homes and workplaces to have such gardens because they save the day,” he says.
“I also argue YICE to scale this project out to other police stations in Nakivale refugee settlement and across the country,” he implores.
Aimable Amanagakiza, a trainer with YICE says, they had wanted a place to put a demonstration garden that promotes regenerative farming techniques that save the environment. Police offered them space which spans about 15X120ft.
However, the soil was rocky, hard and infertile. They ploughed it, added black soil and cow dung manure. They, later on, prepared the nursery bed and transplanted the seedlings in the main garden.
In some corners, they planted the vegetables in sacks, containers, planters and car tyres to show people how to grow vegetables in small spaces.
“We keep adding black soil and manure to enrich the garden. We only harvest daily during the rainy season,” he says.
He adds that they use organic pesticides and manure because they advocate for regenerative farming techniques.