Thursday, 14 February 2013

Alternative ways to food production: The right to food approach

 Hello readers!

 My latest piece for the Digital Development debates  February 2013 edition under the right to food focuses on alternative ways to food security, hunger and food production with special focus on  urban farming. Check it out! 

 Greenhouses in the Backyard
Digital Development Debates
February 2013 Hunger  Edition
Emmie Kio

Urban farming in Kenya has moved beyond just being a poor man's profession. Can it even provide a solution to looming food insecurity?

On a stroll through Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, one's eyes are drawn to a myriad of agricultural activities taking place. From a distance, greenhouses seem to sprout from any available piece of land and backyards. And that is certainly not all: As the greenhouses disappear, backyard vegetable farming, rabbit keeping, cattle rearing, fish farming and even pig farming sets in; and tassels of maize grown at roadside farms wave at you as you pass. This is, in a nutshell, what experts have called urban farming or urban agriculture.

According to the Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security, urban agriculture refers to the cultivation of plants and raising of animals within and around cities. It may be right inside a city – "intra-urban" – or at the outskirts of a city – "peri-urban". The major crops grown include tomatoes, beans, maize, sweet potatoes, kale (locally known as sukuma wiki), African leafy vegetables, arrowroot, cowpeas and Irish potatoes. The major livestock kept includes cows, goats, sheep, rabbits, pigs and poultry.

Urban agriculture is primarily distinguished from rural agriculture as we know it by the way it operates. It is characterised by labour drawn from the urban population, the use of treated or even untreated waste water for irrigation, and its need to be incorporated in urban policy planning.

A remedy against poverty and hunger
In Kenya, poverty and food insecurity are just two of the many development challenges the government has been trying to eradicate since independence. Urban areas are in no way spared the problems of their rural neighbours, and bear the extra burden of a high cost of living. Rapid population growth in these urban areas, either as a result of urbanization or births, accelerates these issues.
"Urban areas are in no way spared
the problems of their rural neighbours,
and bear the extra burden of a high cost of living."

Take Nairobi, for instance, the capital city, where the annual growth rate is currently 4.1 per cent. This has led to an increase in food insecurity here, especially among low-income earners and informal settlers. And with the population projected to rise to 61 million as of 2030, with a higher percentage in urban areas, new ways of feeding the population need be devised.
Urban agriculture seems to be a viable option, as it can utilize limited land area to yield quality produce. This is because it can incorporate technologies like sack gardening, which uses very minimal land space and water while ensuring maximum produce. Such approaches are particularly important to informal settlements where the available land is quite limited and clean water for irrigation is a scarce commodity.

(Read the Full story here )