By Sam Webb
As urban populations grow, people living in cities have gradually begun to feel disconnected to nature. With the already limited available space shrinking before our eyes, opportunities for gardening in cramped urban environments have become increasingly sort after. This has led to a plethora of products; from high-tech hydroponics to magnetic plant pots – all based around the same motivation, to grow plants, herbs and food in even the smallest of spaces.
Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), is a charity working with 280,000 small scale farmers across Africa and Latin America. Their primary mission is to help these farmers develop solutions to the various challenges they face. Threats such as climate change, price volatility and harmful pests can be incredibly damaging to smallholders and their communities. However, ‘necessity breeds invention’ and CPF believes these farmers know what they are doing – all they need is the support and resources to make this possible, and an opportunity to share their ideas.
As CPF began, through their programmes, to bring their network together to share their ideas and knowledge, they saw that the farmers were responding to similar challenges to those being addressed in the burgeoning urban gardening sector.
“We knew that there was an incredible power and value to farmer knowledge,” said Claire Rhodes, CPF General Manager, “however, we started to ask ourselves how an increasingly urbanised population could learn from our farming network and utilise their expertise in a changing world.”
Motivated by this simple idea, CPF has set about bringing smallholders’ knowledge to Western audiences. They shared the ideas, sketches and notes from the farmers with London-based product designers, Those, who adapted, tested and developed products for city living.
This has now taken shape as SmallFolders, which was launched on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo this week. Backers of the SmallFolders campaign can, amongst other perks, choose between getting their hands on a vertical garden, bug trap, beehive, or even buy the whole set. These products are simple and streamlined design that are quick and easy for everyone to set-up – no engineering degree required!
These products, however, are only the beginning on the journey for SmallFolders. CPF sees SmallFolders as an opportunity to open up a conversation between smallholder farmers and those living in cities. The SmallFolder packs will include tips from farmers so that those just getting into urban gardening get the most out of the vertical gardens.
The conversation will also allow city-based consumers to feed advice, ideas and money back into SmallFolders – which aims to be self-sustaining. Any profits raised from the crowdfunding campaign will go directly back into CPF’s programmes supporting farmers to develop and test innovations for small scale farming techniques. Their innovations can then be developed into further products that can be brought to the market. This will give people even more ways to garden in urban settings and bring in even more money to CPF’s programmes – restarting the circle.
SmallFolders is an exciting model that can help us all perfect our urban garden with advice from the experts, and give farmers the support and resources do what they do best – innovate!
CPF’s campaign launched on Indiegogo on 18th November, and will run for 40 days: igg.me/at/smallfolders