SmallFolders: Farmer innovations for urban gardening

By Alex Sowter | December 23, 2015
by Alex Sowter
December 23, 2015

CPF LogoSmallFolders are flatpack urban gardening products inspired by African and Latin American farmers and their hacks to gardening challenges.  Read about how SmallFolders came into fruition via the collaboration of farmers with Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF) in conjunction with Those Design Studio.  And, read on to find out how to win your very own SmallFolder Vertical Garden which comes with some amazing info & tips on gardening direct from the fields! The vertical garden is super easy to use, and can be used to grow food in the toughest of environments.  Bring the magic of nature straight from the fields to your balcony or windowsill!

Smallholder farmers innovate. It is what they do. They can take useless, discarded materials and turn them into exciting new farming techniques, raise kitchen gardens to supplement their income, or create a beehive out of a discarded oil barrel. They understand plants and crops, and how to grow them against all the odds, on even the tiniest plots of land.

Luke Metto

We are Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), and we work with 280,000 small scale farmers across Africa and Latin America. Our 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 we believe that 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.

After hosting an event called the ‘Innovation Marketplace’ with our network in Kenya, we found out just how relevant farmers’ innovations can be. At the event farmers showcased their creative and most innovative inventions: including vertical gardens, beehives and bug traps to keep pests from eating their crops. We immediately recognized how these ideas were incredibly relevant to people living in cities with diminishing access to space for gardening.

Motivated by this idea we set about bringing smallholders’ knowledge to Western audiences by sharing the ideas, sketches and notes from the farmers with London-based product designers. The designers at Those then adapted, tested and developed products ready for urban living.

This has now taken shape as SmallFolders, which was launched on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo last week. Backers of the SmallFolders campaign can choose from ten different perks, and have the choice of getting their hands on a vertical garden, bug trap, beehive, the whole set, and even a trip of a lifetime to meet the coffee farmers on our coffee safari! All of these SmallFolders products are simple but designed for the mass market and are super quick and easy for everyone to set-up – no engineering degree required!
As well as great products, the SmallFolder packs include tips from farmers so that beginners and the more experienced gardeners can get the most from urban gardening, and of course see how the smallholder farmers made use of the vertical gardens in East Africa and Latin America. IMG_2504

Any profits raised from the crowdfunding campaign will go directly back into our programs supporting farmers to develop and test innovations for small scale farming techniques, and will enable work to be carried out supporting farmers to build resilience to climate change and diversify their incomes. You can see our full circle model below:
The Full 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:

WIN A SmallFolder Vertical Garden!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Tuesday, December 29, 2015 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Why are innovations such as the SmallFolder Vertical Garden important?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See Rules for more information.)

UPDATE 1/3/2016: Congratulations to Suzanne Howe, the winner of the Smallfolders giveaway!


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  • Amanda Creen
    Comment added December 30, 2015Reply

    Having fresh produce during the winter months keeps my family healthy.

  • Trish F
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    Innovations such as the SmallFolder Vertical Garden is important because it helps solve many of the challenges that face traditional gardening, space, accesiblity, water resources and fertile earth.

  • Retha Bates
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    This looks like a great way to raise vegetables.

  • Angela Newsome
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    Ideas like this are moving the world forward! Great thinking outside the box!

  • Joanna Allison
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    It is important to grow veggies. This will help to grow more of them.

  • carl
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply


  • Shea Balentine
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    Love that it makes fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs available to anyone, no matter where they live.. even in the city!

  • Leah Shumack
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    Because it goes to show you that you don't need to have a huge area to garden!

  • Nicole Sender
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    Interesting concept! I'd love to try it!

  • Rose Santuci-Sofranko
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    As the world gets more crowded, innovations like these are needed so that people can garden in smaller spaces and new ways. Thanks and God bless! ILuvTheEucharist @

  • Stephanie Liske
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    They are important as they give us room to keep growing plants in what little space we have left in our cram packed world.

  • Sarah Z
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    New ideas keep the world turning. We have to be innovative to overcome obstacles and make life better!

  • April Swaim
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    They help the environment and are safer against the plants!! Kudos to the person that thought of this!!!

  • Miz Vickik
    Comment added December 29, 2015Reply

    I think it's great to come up with things that work in different sized gardens!

  • beth shepherd
    Comment added December 28, 2015Reply

    It is important to find new ways. Its always changing.

  • susan smoaks
    Comment added December 28, 2015Reply

    this invention is great for those of us who do not have a large amount of space to grow in

  • Susan Hartman
    Comment added December 27, 2015Reply

    The world is constantly changing. Innovations are necessary to address those changes. Thank God for those who can find better ways of doing things.

  • Gary w Dell
    Comment added December 26, 2015Reply

    a good idea with so many people growing at home myself included

  • Mary Rowland
    Comment added December 26, 2015Reply

    I like the idea of vertical gardening, being able to grow some of your own fresh vegetables is a joy,even if you don't have much space.

  • shaukat kiani
    Comment added December 25, 2015Reply

    gardening is my hobby not profession.I have 1.5 acre garden & keep buisy improving it all the time. this is a new idea to my knowledge. although I saw a few of these in plant nursuries in UK. I liked it but thought as if it was an individuals idea. now I know its an art and we can do more magic vertically then horizontal on land. I would love to learn more.

  • susan Krebs
    Comment added December 25, 2015Reply

    A great innovation that works well for all.

  • Chad Gustafson
    Comment added December 25, 2015Reply

    It would be nice to have year round.

  • sherry saam
    Comment added December 25, 2015Reply

    this way you can grow all year

  • Holly Benjamin
    Comment added December 25, 2015Reply

    Great ideas! Thank you for thinking outside the box and keeping our world fresh!

  • Suzanne
    Comment added December 24, 2015Reply

    These are so cool. Perfect for us in San Francisco

  • Alyce Poalillo
    Comment added December 24, 2015Reply

    This is an amazing concept and could well be the answer to healthy food for all.
    This is what can happen when innovation, intelligence and technology are used for good.

  • Tricia G
    Comment added December 24, 2015Reply

    Innovations like this are important because they're changing life. They're impacting it.

  • Heather Williams
    Comment added December 24, 2015Reply

    Fresh foods available to everyone. Even if they are in an urban setting. Plus it's cost effective and benefits the environment. Win. Win. Win.

  • Niya Sharma
    Comment added December 23, 2015Reply

    This is one of the exciting article I have come across recently. I also have a similar website about Organic Vegetables

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