Friday, January 15, 2010

Urban Agriculture

Click on the image above to read details about this newly published book on the risks and benefits of urban agriculture with regard to the health of poor urban populations in Kampala, Uganda and beyond, and how findings may shape future research and policy.

What is Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture (UPA)?
Urban agriculture (UA) broadly describes agricultural activities and livelihoods in an urban setting. Peri-urban agriculture similarly takes place in those areas immediately adjoining an urban setting, often the area between the suburbs and the countryside. UPA not only describes the maintainance of farms or gardens in a urban environment, but can also include livestock raising, water management and organic waste management. The opinion that urban agriculture is an illegal nuisance and a hindrance to the development of urbanization is a long held one. Nevertheless, agriculture is practised in the cities of many developed and developing countries and has done so for a long period of time. Ancient civilizations and cultures often incorporated urban agriculture into their social and political centers as a way of life, and in modern times a broader understanding of the potential role of UPA in supporting better health, income and livelihoods, particularly of the urban poor, is changing the perception of its incorporation into the policies and planning of cities throughout the world.

Agriculture practised in urban areas distinguishes itself from rural agricultural activities in several ways.
UPA can be defined as:

Agricultural production, processing, and distribution activities within and around cities and towns, whose main motivation is personal consumption and/or income generation, and which compete for scarce urban resources of land, water, energy, and labor that are in demand for other urban activities.
UPA includes small and large scale activities in horticulture, livestock, fodder and milk production, aquaculture, and forestry - where several activities may be carried out within one enterprise.

Why develop Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture (UPA)?
The absolute and relative growth in urban poverty and malnutrition raises two important issues. First, there is a clear link with food insecurity among urban populations. Studies have shown a link between the growth in underweight children in urban families and the inability of their families to purchase food. Secondly, there is evidence that instability in the urban labor market and its vulnerability to economic shocks directly impact on poverty. Urban agriculture has the potential to make an important positive contribution to both urban food security as well as urban employment. Since ancient times urban agriculture has made important contributions to feeding city dwellers. Recently collected qualitative and quantitative data shows that increasing numbers of the urban poor are engaged in urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) as a poverty alleviation strategy. Already as many as 800 million people are employed in urban and peri-urban farming and related enterprises, and this number is likely to expand in the future. There is evidence that households engaging in urban agriculture have better nutritional levels, especially those households where women are conducting this activity. At the same time, however, urban agriculture practices can potentially increase health risks eg. the use of urban wastewater for irrigation.