Jazan Waihenya lives in the desert, but his backyard is green. Every day, he steps outside his home in the semi-arid Galdogob district of Somalia and into a garden growing swiss chard, collards, amaranthus, eggplant, okra, and tomatoes. “The garden feeds four people daily,” Jazan says. “I share with my neighbours, and sometimes I give the excess to my friends.”
The secret to Jazan’s desert garden is ecobricks, plastic bottles which are stuffed with other discarded plastic to create sturdy building blocks for use with a variety of projects. “I saw that people here weren’t recycling the bottles,” Jazan says of the idea for this project. “So, I thought I should make a demonstration. My main goal was to produce food in my compound using materials the community sees as waste.”
How to Build Your Own Ecobrick Garden
The first step was to source for the bottles. Then I filled the bottles with waste polythene bags and sand to make them stable. I also tied them on a wooden frame for more stability.
The carpeting acts as a waterproof material to protect the concrete in my compound from being destroyed by wetness and to prevent the soil from falling out of the sides.
I filled the structure with a mixture of sand, loam, and manure. Then, I fixed an irrigation system in it with some plastic piping.
I added a plastic mulch which helps to prevent surface evaporation, since the temperatures here can get very high—sometimes up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The white colour also helps reflect the sunlight and prevent the soil from overheating.
Jazan built his backyard garden from ecobricks in May 2019, and by mid-June he was harvesting crops and promoting an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle. “I eat healthy, organic vegetables every day without spending much money,” he says, “and my compound looks beautiful.”
More than that, after enjoying the fruits of Jazan’s eco-friendly labor, the plastic bottles no longer seem like waste to the other residents of the compound. “I am happy that my neighbours also get to eat healthy vegetables,” Jazan says. “Many people ask me to train them in how they can make a backyard garden. I happily do so, and this has also helped me make more friends.”