City farmers of Africa

Photo credit: © Andrea Booher/UNDP

This picture shows one of a growing number of urban farmers in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, who is able to supplement his family's diet by farming a plot of land in town. A study by the Mazingira Institute found that almost one in three urban households in Kenya farms crops in towns or cities.

In some African cities the percentage of urban families growing some of their own food is even higher, according to the UN Development Programme, which puts the figure at 80 per cent in Libreville (Congo) and 68 per cent in six Tanzania cities.

Many of these farmers are women who help to feed their children, or pay for school fees, by farming small plots around their homes or by taking over of vacant or unclaimed land. Others include unemployed migrants who have to eke out a living as best they can.

Food security is a big challenge in the rapidly growing cities of sub-Saharan Africa, says Dr Luc Mougeot, Senior Programme Officer for Urban Environment Management at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada. Over 38 per cent of Africans now live in cities - and 53 per cent are expected to do so by 2030 - but employment opportunities have not kept pace.

In many developing countries, an increasing supply of vegetables, fruits, small livestock and diary products, and even of beans, grains, rootcrops and cattle meat, are being produced in urban settlements. This is particularly so in east and south east Asia. Urban farming is expanding in Latin America, and even more so in sub-Saharan Africa. It is already being practised by about 200 million people and supplies food to around 700 million, according to IDRC.

Once, widely discouraged by government officials as unplanned and unhygienic, city farming is now tolerated by many local authorities. In some cities surveyed it has grown into a multi-million dollar industry. But with greater institutional support it could make an even bigger contribution to the food supply of poor urban households, their children's nutrition, and their income.

Related articles:

City farmers of Kenya

Urban poor facing increasing malnutrition, FAO warns

Related links:

Urban Agriculture - IDRC

Cities Feeding People Program

City farming innovations - UNDP

Resource Centre on Urban Agriculture and Forestry

City Farmer's Urban Agriculture Notes