Personality of the Week: Meet Sandra Nakagiri, Backyard Gardens Queen

Our personality of the week is Ms. Sandra Nakagiri, Founder and Executive Director of SandyRoots Ltd, a social enterprise focused on supporting and inspiring young girls into farming, working in the environment and training women into backyard gardens.

I got a great opportunity of joining her at one of her backyard gardens, which has tomatoes, Sukuma wiki (collard greens), and sweet pepper, it was so inspiring and her love for gardening moved me. I learned that growing your own vegetables can seem overwhelming but it’s actually much simpler than it sounds. Even if you don’t have a yard, you start a patio garden on a windowsill or veranda. I was amazed at how many tomatoes or peppers you can grow out of a small pot!

Sandra’s dream is improving the lives of poor urban women who have limited space for farming and those in rural areas and attracting young people to agriculture. SandyRoots Ltd aims at young girls’ mindset change towards farming and creating new opportunities.

“Greater access to knowledge and tools means more productive farming, while greater productivity on the farm means more resources for education, health and other activities. Through this mindset transformation, young people can drive economic growth, fight hunger, improve nutrition and lift their own communities and families out of poverty” – Sandy told me.

SandyRoots is an emerging promoter of backyard gardening. The social enterprise is looking at changing people’s lives for the better by taking up gardening. Backyard gardening has a number of benefits, including but not limited to: exercising, fresh air, mental health, saving money, good eating and building community.

Some of the benefits of backyard gardening:

  • Improve your health.  Consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. When you pick vegetables right from your garden, the vitamin content will be at its highest. Also, you are reducing the risk of eating vegetables that contain harmful chemicals–you know exactly what you’re eating. In addition, getting kids involved in the gardening process will make it more likely for them to try the vegetables.
  • Save money on groceries. One of the benefits of enjoying garden vegetables is a reduced monthly food bill. You can grow organic vegetables for a fraction of the cost in the stores.
  • Get outdoor exercise. Gardening is a physical activity and pulling weeds, planting, and digging can burn up to 400 calories per hour. Gardening is also a good mental exercise and helps keep your mind sharp.
  • Gardening is a natural stress reliever. Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine can improve mood and make you feel rejuvenated and overall happy.  Growing your own produce also gives you a great sense of accomplishment.

Sandra told me that “Gardening can impart important lessons that help us better navigate our lives. We gardeners learn quickly that we can’t control the weather, we often lose the battle against hungry pests and foraging animals, and sometimes you pull a seedling instead of a weed. Embracing imperfection and adopting “a growth mindset” around our own mistakes and those of others helps us to better tackle challenges at home and at work”.

“Lastly, yes it can be a lot of work. But you will savor it—not just your harvest but all the little moments that get you there. There is no comparison between the taste of a garden fresh tomato and a grocery store bought one that’s devoid of flavor” – she concluded.

As told to: Isaac Ssamba

Coordinator of Impactful Life Initiative (ILI) a project of Ssamba Foundation & The Scribe News, created to support and recognize change makers in our societies who are social entrepreneurs, innovators, business leaders, policy makers, and activists.