Secure food through urban farmingIn collaboration with FAO, Lubumbashi has in just ten years built up a thriving urban agriculture with more than a tenfold increase in food production. Lubumbashi is one of hundreds of cities in developing countries that made a U-turn in the 2000s and are now investing in urban farming. With market gardens, roof gardens, and micro-farming cities can offset heavy urbanisation, creating a more secure food supply and a greener urban environment.
Keywords: urban farming, micro gardens, food safety, FAO, urbanisation
Lubumbashi is the second largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has grown by 50% over the past ten years, an urbanisation pattern typical of the developing world, where in just a decade, the urban population has increased by 500 million people. The city populations of Southern Africa are expected to increase by another 50% in the next ten years. A large percentage of the new city inhabitants end up in slum areas, the growth of which exceeds that of the cities. Unchecked expansion of slum areas with large inhabitants of vulnerable, marginalised, and unemployed young people has been called the new population bomb.
Green cities in the south
In order to address this problem the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) suggests an adapted version of the concept of “green cities”, which in developing countries could signify food safety, work and income, clean environment and good governance. According to the FAO, urban and peri-urban farming could be a starting point for such a transformation.
Experiences with this within UN Habitat's and UNEP’s “Sustainable Cities Programme” have been good. Since its start in the beginning of the 1990s in Dar es Salaam, the programme has expanded to 30 countries. Building on this, the FAO has in the past 10 years helped city authorities in over 20 countries with town planning, legislation, education and technology. Irrigated market gardens in the outlying areas, horticulture and micro-farming in the slums and roof-top farming in city centres have been developed in hundreds of cities. The programme has proved to be a champion of the poor, not only creating food safety but also encouraging the ripple effect of greener environments, better waste and water management, jobs and development.
Highly successful programme
Lubumbashis’s FAO-supported programme for city farming began in 2000. Farmed areas have increased from less than 250 acres to 1,800 acres, and productivity has increased significantly. Market gardens are currently producing 60,000 tons of vegetables per year, which is considered to have replaced the imports from Zambia. From the start, land and water resources were secured, the quality of production was improved, legal and institutional conditions – including the opportunity for participants to buy up their farms – were established, and information about the project was spread. Besides affecting the city in general in a beneficial manner, the project has led to:
- a significant improvement in the living standards of farmers and their extended families
- a development of farming techniques with better tools and natural fertilizers
- a great expansion of the number of cultivated crops
- organization through cooperatives and associations
- creation of training facilities and meeting places
- an amelioration in the conditions of participating women
New urban farming
Urban farming is not a new thing; however when developing countries – and China for its part – now focus on urban farming, they stop trying to copy the Western model of urbanisation in favour of something like a modernisation of existing systems (see also Shanghai). Urban farming can contribute to as much as half of a city’s food supplies – not only vegetables, but dairy products, eggs, meat, and fish too. In 2005 FAO estimated that 700 million people supported themselves by means of city farming (see also Barcelona, Havana and Hyderabad). Positive effects, according to the FAO, are:
- It increases city access to good, fresh food, with shorter transport distances, especially for the poor
- It offers a means of support resistant to crises and inflationary pressures
- The connection to waste and water management leads to a better and more sustainable environment
- It constitutes a laboratory for innovation in urban development and democracy
- It provides marginalised groups with food, income, participation and an outlet for young people’s energy
Programmes in many cities
Other good examples of urban farming in developing countries are:
- Dar es Salaam’s horticulture, which covers just over 1,600 acres and offers 4,000 people a living
- Dakar’s FAO supported roof-top horticulture, producing up to 30 kg of tomatoes per sq m per year
- Hanoi's urban agriculture, which accounts for 80 percent of the vegetables, 50 percent of the pork and chicken meat, 40 percent of the eggs and 50 percent of the fish to the city (see also Hanoi)
- Kolkata's wastewater fish ponds, which produce 18,000 tons of fish a year
- Caracas’ 8,000 FAO-supported micro-farming in the slums, which produce large amounts of lettuce, tomatoes, and cabbage
FAO has similar projects in La Paz, Bujimbura, Bogota, Medellin, Kinshasa, Guatemala City, Windhoek, Managua, and Kigali.
Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute, 2009, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, First edition, W. W. Norton & Company, http://www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/book_files/pb4book.pdf
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2010, Growing greener cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, FAO’s Programme for Urban and Peri-urban Horticulture Plant Production and Protection Division (AGP), http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1901e/i1901e00.pdf
Growing Greener Cities, FAO’s Programme for Urban and Peri-urban Horticulture, http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/greenercities/index_en.html
UN-Habitat, Sustainable Cities Programme, http://www.unhabitat.org/categories.asp?catid=540
“Dar Es Salaam: Feeding the sustainable city”, Sustainable Cities, 2010, http://sustainablecities.dk/en/city-projects/cases/dar-es-salaam-feeding-the-sustainable-city
Sustainable Cities International, http://sustainablecities.net/
Key data are retrieved from the UN World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision, http://esa.un.org/unup/unup/index_panel2.html
Text by: Martin Jacobson