Urban Agriculture in the Urban Jungle
The term ‘Urban Jungle’ as discussed in a previous blog, Living Sustainably in the Urban Jungle; refers to a city encompassing all its dimensions including the buildings, residential areas, playgrounds, schools, businesses and industries. Urban agriculture can be described as growing of plants and trees, raising animals and farming within and around the cities (peri urban agriculture).
The concept means utilising the urban ecosystem by getting residents of the city to act as laborers or farmers and using resources that can be easily found within a city. Organic waste is used as compost for the crops. Moreover, city wastewater, to some extent, may be used for irrigation purposes. It is increasingly becoming an intrinsic part of the urban system. The activities may take place on private or public lands. Urban agriculture can yield a variety of local produce such as root crops, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms etc. as well as poultry animals and fish. Non-food products that have various other benefits such as tree products, herbs and seasonal attractive plants are grown too.
Why Urban Agriculture – Benefits
International organisations like the United Nations and the World Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have progressively acknowledged and supported Urban Agriculture and its importance. With urbanisation occurring all around the world and populations increasingly drifting toward city dwelling, the planet may soon resemble a clutter of cities and towns. Most cities, especially in developing countries face difficulties adjusting to the rapid developments. As a result, there are not enough jobs and resources for the people living in these areas. Furthermore, there are also other environmental effects of such urbanisation. Maintaining water and air quality, disposing of urban waste and shortage of food are a few examples of such challenges.
In many parts of the world, the urban poor have limited access to quality food because of financial constraints and limited local production. Urban agriculture has the potential to make healthy and fresh products available at an affordable price to all sections of the community.
In lieu of rapidly growing populations in cities, creation of jobs and opportunities to employ new members of the society can not necessarily keep up. Urban agriculture encourages micro-enterprises and local production thereby generating employment opportunities across the city. An increase in employment results in reduced poverty and contributes to improving the overall standard of living in the city. Areas surrounding agriculture, such as farming, food processing, packaging and marketing create many opportunities for local employment.
Another benefit of urban agriculture is the integration of all groups in the society that come together to work effectively toward building a strong community, all the while locally producing agricultural products for consumption and sale. Urban agriculture is also taken up as a hobby or as a means of relaxation and socialising in many developed cities. It can be a way to take part in recreational activities such as visiting or selling in the local farmers’ market with friends or family. For many it can thereby prove to be a source of social inclusion as well.
Urban agriculture can assist in tackling the problems around organic waste and wastewater in a growing city. Urban waste can be used as compost for agricultural purposes. As a result, farmers will use less chemical fertilisers, hence preventing the contamination of underground water. Turning empty land spaces into green ground also yields many environmental benefits such as cleaner air and reducing urban temperatures. There are many micro environmental advantages as well. Reduction in run-offs, trapping dust and CO2, providing shade to pedestrians are a few examples. The residents and visitors also benefit from and can enjoy and appreciate green spaces.
FAO’s Role in Urban Agriculture
The FAO supports and funds Urban agriculture as an economic activity that is incorporated into the local and national agricultural development approach and urban planning. Some of the many contributions of the FAO are listed below:
Guatemala: Launched in 2010, the project aims to establish food security and incomes of the residents of Guatemala City. The FAO supports the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food to incorporate rooftop drainage systems to support over 1000 household gardens, school orchards and greenhouses.
Democratic Republic of Congo: The FAO guides and supports the development of five urban cities in Congo. It funds and advices 20,000 full time growers in such cities by regularising 1600 hectares of garden area.
Rwanda: Projects were implemented to support the Rwanda Government in 2004 & 2009 focusing on horticulture, water infrastructure, forestry etc. The government introduced more than 40 micro gardens and rainwater infrastructure.
Venezuela: Government projects have been funded in Carababo, Aragua and Caracus. Such projects help nearly 7200 families in these densely populated cities to develop their own micro gardens. The government has introduced Hydroponic technology in 23 community horticulture production units.