Mobile Kitchen Gardens

Grassroots Food Security for Women
Portable kitchen gardens maintained by women in Niger as part of a scheme that is both concerned with the immediate, local scale of food production and supports the wider goal of climate justice


Droughts strike Niger so regularly that many people starve each year.1Fred Harter,‘“We Just Pray for Rain”: Niger Is in the Eye of the Climate Crisis – and Children Are Starving’, The Guardian, 20 June 2022 <> [accessed 17 November 2023]. Nomadic families comprising 20% of Niger’s population are hit hardest, as they search for ever diminishing grazing lands. Niger has an average temperature of 35 degrees Celsius and only 30 millimetres of rainfall each year. As the planet warms, desertification increasingly becomes a problem in Niger. Additional climate impacts, including erratic rainfall, windstorms, flooding, and rapid soil erosion due to storms, increase competition for water and land for crops, leading to conflict amongst communities. Malnutrition combined with gender discrimination means that women and children are disproportionately vulnerable to crop failures and social conflict caused by climate breakdown. Grassroots initiatives for empowering women and families worst affected by climate breakdown are paramount in facing the intersectional challenges it poses.


In 2019, CARE, an international humanitarian organisation tackling global poverty and climate vulnerability by working alongside women and girls, worked with its regional office in Niger to initiate a Mobile Kitchen Gardens scheme for growing crops with limited water. The scheme enabled people to grow lettuce, quinoa, and moringa for themselves and to sell surplus for an income. It provided portable bags, clay or wooden trays, and 200 grams of seeds per person, in a portable system that can be packed and transported as needed. In addition to providing physical containers and seeds, the scheme provides infrastructural support, including a Village Savings and Loans strategy.2CARE Climate Change, ‘The Portable Gardens Helping Niger’s Pastoral Community Build Resilience’, 30 August 2021 <> [accessed 17 November 2023].

Although on a global level, programmes like this do little to challenge wider causes and consequences of climate breakdown, socioeconomic inequality, and gender exploitation, they do encourage grass-roots strategies for self-reliance. In the immediate locality of space and time, mobile gardens reduce hunger and malnutrition. They also improve women’s opportunities to support themselves and their children, helping address gender-specific differences in vulnerability in the face of climate breakdown. Mobile gardens function as teaching examples for future grassroots initiatives. In so doing, mobile gardens resist exploitative approaches to land, advocate for people’s rights to self-determination and dignity, and exemplify what the Martiniquian philosopher Édouard Glissant describes as acting locally and thinking with the world.3Manthia Diawara, “Édouard Glissant’s Worldmentality: An Introduction to One World in Relation”., 2017 <> [accessed 17 November 2023].