New Agriculturist

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Points of View
Urban agriculture

More than half of the world's population will be living in urban areas by 2015. And, of the nine cities projected to have populations exceeding 20 million, eight will be in developing countries. These estimates by the CGIAR have stimulated a US$500,000 Global Strategic Initiative on Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture which will link some 10 of the CGIAR's 16 research centres with international aid agencies, NGOs and research networks in Africa, Asia and Latin America to meet, what the Director General of the International Potato Centre, (CIP) has called "one of the greatest challenges in the history of agriculture". Currently, an estimated 800 million people are engaged in some form of urban farming, whether tending home gardens or working in commercial livestock, aquaculture, forestry or greenhouse operations. What are the options and opportunities? What are the potential and practical problems? A range of points of view.


"Researchers have been working for years to make rural agriculture more productive and sustainable. In looking at the needs of urban farmers, we're pursuing the same goals as we are in the countryside, food security for developing countries, a way out of poverty for food producers, and better access to food for consumers."
Hubert Zandstra, Director General, CIP, Lima, Peru. CGIAR News, Sept. '99.

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"Peri-urban systems are an idea whose time has come, but advocates have to come up with some ideas about how to make them sustainable. These ideas relate to incentives for farmers to adopt new practices and learn to substitute labour, knowledge, and management for purchased inputs; educating producers and consumers regarding sustainable resource use; government insurance to spread risks; the development of infrastucture; and collective marketing."
Centerpoint, Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC.

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"A number of recent reports from cities around the world show that the number of animals in cities is increasing. For example in a country such as Bangladesh you might expect 90% of the people to have one sort of livestock or another. It's a major asset for the people who have the livestock because it represents a very important source of income. There's a secondary benefit in terms of food and it's been shown that families that have livestock tend to have a higher level of nutrition and members of that family are more healthy."
Dr Denis Fielding, Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Edinburgh, Scotland, WRENmedia interview

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"We have to focus more attention on urban farmers, both on their own needs, and on ways in which they can be more productive. These people need technology that's appropriate to modern urban realities. We're hoping that the research community can produce just that."
Wanda Collins, Research Director, CIP, Lima, Peru. CGIAR News, Sept. '99.

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"Urban agriculture's complexity makes it clear that this is far from being merely a poor person's subsistence, an informal or illegal undertaking. Surveys in middle- and upper-class districts unveil a very different landscape. The UNDP survey (1993), for example, identified seven categories of urban farmer, ranging from low-income survival to agribusiness, including middle-income home gardeners, low-, middle- and high income entrepreneurs, and farmers associations and co-operatives."
Luc J.A.Mougeot, IDRC, Ottawa, Canada, 'Cities feeding people'

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Urban farming in Soshanguve, Pretoria, S. Africa"Here, as I'm unemployed, we decided that we women had better come together and see what we can do. Because we cannot sit and fold our arms and look for the Government to give us jobs. We have to do something with our hands. So we have decided to do farming with vegetables, because we have realised that people of our locality travel a long distance to buy vegetables. So we have decided to make a market closer to our people. So now we supply many people around our locality. That's why we started this project."
Katibe Mabusela, urban farming group in Soshanguve, Pretoria, South Africa. WRENmedia interview.

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AS: I'm here in Manju Sharma's terrace. She lives in a flat, she has not got a proper garden, but she has got so many things growing on top of her roof. My god there are oranges, grapes, sugar cane, papayas, she says she has got 38 varieties of different kinds of fruit. Let me ask her what she has got, Manju what are these?
MS: This is grapefruit and you can grow it in your pot and it grows really big. When you see on the farm they are very big but in pots you generally find very small varieties. But I tried this variety and it came up very well. And as usual you should take good care, you should give it support when the fruit comes - the fruits are usually very big you know. You should water them properly, and touch the plants. You know they should have this feeling that they are being loved and taken care of, especially if it rains heavily then I come and touch them and say don't worry I am with you and sometmes I talk to them, play music to them, you know they grow faster with the music. And it is very interesting to see your fruits right from small you know and growing big. I don't have to go to a farmhouse, I have a farm house on my terrace.
Anjana Sharma reports from Delhi and the orchard terrace of Manju Sharma.

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"The problems associated with urbanisation are many and diverse, but it's amazing to see just what growing vegetables can do to alleviate these problems."
Dr Meisaku Koizumi, Asst. Director General, AVRDC, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC. 'Feeding Hungry Cities in the next Century.'

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"To encourage the people (in Gaza City), as well as the refugee camps, to use every square metre for the production of food. One important part of our urban agriculture programme, is making demonstrations to show the farmers and the people how they can use their 'grey' water and sewage water and to recycle it by special methods, and to re-use it in agriculture or at least irrigating their gardens around their houses."
Ahmed Sourani, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, Gaza-through Israel. BBC World Service, The Farming World.

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"In Chicago, we have worked with goats, also with fish-tilapia- and catfish that are raised in tanks in the basements of some of the very large highrise, low-income units. And we've also worked with earthworms. On many of the projects there is a garden component, and there are fields, lots, that are not being used that the city has allocated for urban gardening. The worms become a very important part of the whole cycle and they are now marketing the worm casts directly to nurseries as organic fertiliser."
Beth Miller, Heifer Project International, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. Bethm@heifer.org WRENmedia interview.

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Tipu Sultan Khan tending to his roof garden"People say, 'No money, no taka, no paisa for the market'. But, if we have a roof garden like this, we can easily pick green chilli, vegetables, fruits, which can feed one family easily."
Tipu Sultan Khan, Chairman, Roof Garden Association, Dhaka, Bangladesh. WRENmedia interview.
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"Eight years ago, when the economic situation in Japan was at its peak, the land prices soared and, because we were part of this urban community, there were criticisms from the general public that the land we were using for farming is low utilised land and it is very inefficient. But our protests led to the land being protected. Now, 250 tomato plants earn me about one million yen, which is approximately US$ 7000."
Mr Shirashi, farmer, Narima, Tokyo, Japan. WRENmedia interview.

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"The most visible impact of these gardens is on the nutritional health of the participants… This pilot project has demonstrated that there is a real interest in establishing urban gardens among residents of the shanty towns and the organisations that work with them. It has given participants another image of themselves, by instilling in them the confidence that they can improve their situation by applying their own means and skills. The most important long-term result will be to upgrade human resources, now largely marginalized so that they can bring about a change in the countries situation."
Mildred Delphin Regis, CARE-Haiti urban gardens project manager, in IDRC Reports online. Carehaiti@pap.care.org

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"The multi-ethnic mix on the Handsworth Uplands allotments here is quite amazing. There are about 14 nationalities: Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Jamaican, Barbadian, Polish. It's quite a wide variety. What is pleasing to see is how it reflects in the kind of food that is grown on the plots: everyone tries to grow something from their ethnic native background. Not only do they exchange seeds, but how to cook it, ways to eat it, and in this way a sort of culture blending, I feel, is taking place in Birmingham--or in the allotments, anyway. Food is a good way of breaking down barriers, isn't it?"
Eddie Campbell, Allotments Liaison Officer, Birmingham City Council. WRENmedia interview.

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"People who live in cities and don't have livestock are often unhappy about their neighbours having livestock. It is sometimes a cause of conflict between neighbours and between religious groups. In addition, there are problems with pollution, smells, with blocking of drains from effluent. The water used can be a breeding place for mosquitoes, the general waste can encourage rats, dirt can lead to more flies, and overall it can produce a very unhealthy environment. It's an area that's grown up without any intervention from Ministries or outside agencies. And the fact that it has grown so fast, and extensively shows that it is meeting a need. But, it has now come to the stage where communities, cities and governments do need to develop a policy. Otherwise there will be repercussions for the environment, tourism and many other things."
Dr Denis Fielding, Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Edinburgh, Scotland. WRENmedia interview.

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"Training has to be part of all of our projects. When just an individual purchases an animal and begins a small-scale dairy, let's say in Delhi, the manure disposal is a problem. When a group does it and realises they need a plan for disposal, there's the opportunity to market the manure to the gardeners, to the farmers that need it. In a busy Third World capital there's a lot of people that can grow some grass, bring it into the city, sell the forage and get the manure in return to put on their own fields. That takes a lot more planning than an individual farmer can do but, as a group, they can work together and set out and accomplish it."
Beth Miller, Heifer Project International, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.

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"To the people who are listening, I wish that they could themselves take the initiative, because unemployment today is rife, people are without food, there is nobody who is going to give you food if you don't do your own thing. In fact the thing today is to use every available space within the urban areas for production of food. Because people have moved to the urban areas from the rural areas in search of work. And there's just no work!"
Mrs Marshiani, urban gardener, Mabupane, North West Province, South Africa. WRENmedia interview.

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WRENmedia