An uphill task: “Greening” cities to feed Africa

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Although lacking support from formal institutions, urban agriculture is a key to food security.

The livelihoods of many people in cities in developing countries depend on urban agriculture (UA) for food and income. Economic hardships have necessitated the growth of UA in developing countries for the mitigation of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity and malnutrition. UA reduces rural-to-urban food exportation, thus significantly improving the status of national food reserves. However, to a large extent municipal governments have considered UA as incompatible with urban development.

Most urban farmers are involved in crop production, but they face a number of difficulties. These include and unpredictable rainfall regimes, intensified by climate change and variability, and poor soil fertility aggravated by high costs of mineral fertilizers.

But urban farmers are innovative! They have resorted to using locally available organic fertilizers (sewage sludge, and pig, cattle and poultry manure) for crop production. Although these urban farmers are getting very little assistance, if any, from governments as compared to rural farmers, they are still supplying city markets with fresh produce.

Furthermore, crops beautify cities as well as purifying the air from industry- and automobile-generated carbon dioxide. Most natural vegetation is fast disappearing due intense competition from other urban land uses such as housing and industrial developments, making urban agriculture a key replacement carbon sink. Moreover, trees grown in UA can be used as fuel wood in cities where power shortages are the order of the day.

In conclusion, municipal governments should include UA in their master plans so as to improve food and nutritional security. Greening cities has a high potential to alleviate hunger and extreme poverty, and should not be ignored for both funding and technical support.

Blogpost by Armwell Shumba, a social reporter for AASW6.

Photo: A. Shumba

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