“Design a Magical Food Garden” Nicky Fitzgerald

  • A 60m x60m Food Garden for Agama Mara, Luxury Safari Lodge

  • No Electric fencing may be used(Situated at the rim of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, surrounded by wild animals, from the prickly porcupine to the mighty elephant).
  • A Food garden whose purpose is to provide fresh, homegrown produce for the remotely situated 5 star lodge.
  • A Food garden, as a part and parcel of the guest experience, to be visited and experienced.
  • and did I forget to mention Magical


Shamba Masterplan Watercolour

Shamba Masterplan Watercolour

step 1.Shamba dEFENCE PLAN:

Securing the Shamba perimeter from Elephants, Antelope, Baboons, Monkeys and Porcupine.

Upon investigation a series mechanisms and structures had to be put in place such as:

  • Constructing a tall natural woven forest fence all around the Shamba using flexible branches sourced from a nearby forest ( in keeping with the Kenyan vernacular methodology).
  • Planting “wait-a-bit” thorn trees all along the outside of the fence (keeping out most animals). Depositing sharp stones around the perimeter.
  • Strategically positioning Beehives at intervals around the Shamba ( elephants loathe bees) cow bells and tins- poles with wire.
  • Lastly making provision for the build of a Manyatta, a traditional shelter to house a Shamba Keeper ( As the most potent defence from animals is the smell of a human).
Shamba Masterplan 'Zoning'

Shamba Masterplan 'Zoning'

STEP 2. Plant selection & procurement

Evaluating culinary requirements from the chef, environment & climate.

Given Kenya’s legislation promoting the monopoly trade of Monsanto seeds. Heirloom, organic and GMO Free alternatives had to be sourced abroad.


Given the remote location and the sheer size of the Shamba, a nursery and service area has to be incorporated into the design, carefully positioned, but running parallel to the length of the garden.

Shamba Reservoir

Shamba Reservoir

Shamba Masterplan viewed from above

Shamba Masterplan viewed from above

step 4. preparing for the Dry spells:

A constant supply of water is of utmost importance for any food garden.Channelling the water that fell onto and adjacent to the 60 x 60m site dictated the first ordering principal. Implementing a series of pools and swales (water furrows) would create a microclimate, reserving water for the harsh dry spells. Swales follow the contour lines and in this case divide the shamba up into 5 sections-  a central feature dictating design.


A guest experience: creating a place of beauty, mystery and discovery. Naturally, inspired by the enchantment of hidden passages and secret openings, the masterplan design is based on exploration. 

Given the demarcated five zones, as dictated by the waterways following natural contours, the garden lends itself to an organic plan, contributing to five oddly shaped zones, each with a dominating feature – imagine pumpkin tunnels and lemon labyrinths.

Adhering to both the functionality of getting from one zone to the next in the fastest way possible ( for the gardener) and allowing for a meandering guest: pathways were designed in a ‘Snakes and Ladders’ arrangement. Starting under the passion fruit & pumpkin fruit arbor visitors can either take the most direct route, zigzagging their way through the five zones, or they can embark on a winding journey of mazes and labyrinths that reveal the secrets of this lovely garden.


At the beginning, visitors enter the Shamba and are immediately lead through curving tunnels of vined pumpkin, melon and other plants, not knowing what lies beyond. Soon after emerging from the vined tunnels, visitors finally get a better view of the Shamba. The meandering pathway then leads to the second part of the garden, a spiralling labyrinth lemon tree arbour. Visitors are then lead to a sheltered calabash raised garden inspired by the principles of plant rotation. Finally , visitors may pass through a medicinal garden and choose to picnic below tall trees on the lookout deck , surveying the Great Rift Valley or meander right down to a mysterious manyatta. The manyatta is a sacred space, built for those who wish to exchanges vows under the Kenyan sun. 

Alternatively, for gardeners or visitors eager to get from A to B, direct paths connects each zone for easy access.

Within the Shamba companion planting and permaculture influences design aspects, but more of this within the Shamba Projects

Shambaat first light