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Vertical gardens Start-up Scoops Multi-million Grant

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The Vertical and Micro gardening (VMG) startup is among the five winners of the $250 (about sh925m) grant.

Paul Matovu, VMG proprietor says, the grant is intended to address food security and malnutrition challenges in Rhino camp and Kyaka II refugee settlements plus the host communities.

He shares the grant with other winners including; Healthy Entrepreneurs, Gulu University (Academia), Welthungerhilfe and CEFORD and Afema Ventures.

Paul Matovu, VMG proprietor

This is under the Local Innovation for Nutrition Solutions Project (LINS) implemented by the Response Innovation Lab (RIL) Uganda in partnership with Save the Children and funded by Innovation Norway.

Matovu invented the vertical garden also called farm in a box in 2017.

“Vertical farming is a sustainable solution to growing food in small spaces. These gardens are going to help thousands of refugees to have vegetables all year round,” he explains.

Matovu is also Vision Group’s TOP 40 UNDER 40 winner. He was recognized among the top young achievers for the year 2021.

Meanwhile, the refugees will be able to grow Sukuma wiki, tomatoes, cabbage, herbs and spring onions among others.

While announcing the winners at an event held at Fairway Hotel on Thursday, Charlène Cabot, RIL manager said the project was launched 18 months ago and will run till early 2023.

“We received 40 applications and sieved out the five winners,” she says.

VMG will provide technical trainings on better vertical farming practices to optimize limited space and support the growth of vegetables throughout the year in those camps.

Meanwhile, in 2021, LINS issued a call for nutrition innovations and solutions that are locally rooted, market-driven, sustainable, with satisfactory proof of concept and less dependent on humanitarian aid flows.

They focused on solutions to major challenges of malnutrition including positive behavioral change practices, access to nutritious food and prevention of food loss and wastage along the food system.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) figures show that Uganda hosts 1,531,593 million refugees, mainly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Also at the event, Richard Zulu, founder of Outbox Hub and chairperson of Startup Uganda said private sector actors are playing a big role in ending food insecurity in their communities.

He adds that many entrepreneurs have embraced the value of fortifying their products to solve the malnutrition challenges like anemia and stunting.

“We are supporting over 30 startups in the agriculture sector but many lack the technical know-how. Others are struggling between managing impact and sustainability and shared infrastructure,” he said.

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