Kampala: A Vision of the Future
An examination of urban farmer innovations and UA-supportive urban planning and development, in one of Africa's most progressive urban centers.
Rebecca L. Rutt
MSc. Candidate, International Development Studies
International School for Humanities and Social Sciences
Universiteit van Amsterdam
5 September 2006
An Inspirational City of the Future
I view Kampala as a progressive African city. Recently working as a researcher in this urban center, I set out to discover farmer innovators, and not only did I find one or two, but indeed I found many. The 'Farmer Innovator' [Critchley, W. et al. (1999). Promoting Farmer Innovation: Harnessing Local Environmental Knowledge in East Africa. Regional Land Management Unit, Relma/Sida, ICRAF House, Gigiri: Nariobi.] is a man or woman who has developed his or her own creative solution to an agricultural problem. Sometimes the innovation technically alleviates some difficulty; other times it is a social solution to a community dilemma. In either case, the ingenious individual is using indigenous knowledge within their local context. What I also found in Kampala, that directly relates to its titling of 'progressive', is that those within bi-lateral agencies and the government are not only very much aware of these innovators, but even utilize their know-how to further the good of all farmers, and food consumers, within Kampala City. I discovered real environmentalists and long-term, sustainable-minded actors within the policymaking realm. Impressive. Unheard of. That is Kampala.
Meet the 'Farmer Innovators'
As farmers are the core of the study, a brief illustration of their accomplishments is essential. As previously mentioned, the innovations were grouped into 'technical' or 'social', although I discovered one innovation that I now tentatively title 'enviro/business'. The innovations I focused on have provisionally passed the 'TEES' test, or are 'technically', 'environmentally' 'economically' and 'socially' sound.
The technical innovators encountered include Mr. John Sserwanga, a gentleman who has constructed his mushroom house out of banana fronds, a trick learned from childhood that keeps his structure cooler than corrugated iron. He is currently experimenting with a papaya frond mushroom house, tactically located under the shade of a large tree. Mr. James Kalule, police officer and farmer at Makerere University, experiments with land that has experienced dumping of displaced soils from construction work and waste disposal, and now strategically plants certain crops in earmarked locations. Another, Ms. Jolly Nalubega, is a master of what we call 'space-confined management'. Her technical innovation is found in a 1 metre by 3 metre corridor located in the slums of the Makindye District. This nearly undetectable compartment is home to her mushrooms, and since 1992, Ms. Nalubega has survived totally off their production, earning around $15 US dollars a week! This corridor could be filled with trash; it could be empty. Instead, it provides a woman with her entire livelihood, and produces a nutritious commodity for her clientele.
Social innovations touch many lives. Ms. Alice Tebyasa of the Kawempe Division has organized a neighborhood fishpond with 40 women from her community, for the nutritional value plus added income. Since 1997 they have shared responsibilities, evenly dividing maintenance costs and revenue from fish sales. Ms. Katharine Kiweewesi from the Kawempe Division has done a great deal to improve the lives of the poorest children (and their families) of her community. In 1984 she first opened the free Goodyear Nursery School, and for the past 4 years, she has implemented an agricultural program with the student's involvement (from as young as 4 years of age). The crops provide lunch, and Ms. Kiweewesi has noticed improved behavior and alertness in her pupils. Children also bring home food to their families, extending the reach of the service deep into the community. Furthermore, one of Ms. Kiweewesi's daughters (all 3 of whom help out at the school) is a master of indigenous knowledge and uses the many fruits and vegetables to create wine, juices, jams, cakes and more, which are then sold with proceeds returning to help the school sustain itself.
More social innovations include the Cleveland Hill Primary School, which shares excess school property with local farmers. The farmers have more space to plant crops (almost 2 acres), and the school benefits by having the bush cleared and managed (a safety feature) as well as seeing their teaching put into practice, as Cleveland Hill holds monthly agricultural training workshops. The Ttula Primary School has established a marketing cooperative with parents. Twenty-five households are individually responsible to grow and harvest 50 mounds of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, a crop that has proven its popularity at the marketplace. Proceeds from sales (and the sale of by-products including juices and flour) will then go towards a community priority-list. This social innovation, relying heavily on mutual trust and commitment, is still in the experimental phase, as the first round has not yet been harvested. Another school, the Kampala School for the Physically Handicapped, is also conducting an agricultural course, with some of the labor provided by the children. This is particularly innovative when one considers the long-term picture. The students at the school are not only physically but mentally handicapped as well, yet their role in the program is significant. With Uganda's high rate of unemployment, the likelihood of obtaining a position within the formal sector is almost impossible. Having learned how to feed themselves autonomously, they are less likely to require handouts and practice begging, and even have the chance to earn an income from the sales of their produce.
Mrs. Mabel Bikandema, an innovator farming in the Makindye Division of Kampala, produces compost from all of the organic matter that originates on her farm and in her household. To supplement her own source of biodegradable mass, Mrs. Bikandema regularly visits the produce market, where she pays boys around 2,000 shillings (about 30 US cents) to collect discarded organic matter- cabbage stems, bananas peels, animal droppings, etcetera- and take it to her home. There, it is added to the compost heap, which is then bagged and sold to other farmers. In doing this, Mrs. Bikandema improves the environmental health of her community by removing a source of waste. She also provides employment to local youth, and most importantly, generates something positive from something negative, or what would have been otherwise useless. This practice earns Mrs. Bikandema the provisional title of 'Enviro/Business' Innovator.
Innovators: an Essential Ingredient for Urban Development
It is remarkable innovations that catch the eye and focus the interest of authorities; therefore the search for innovators in agriculture can have great impacts on the developing world. Mrs. Pross Owino, an agricultural officer working in the area, notes that these innovations also take the heat off of community planners by reducing their workload. Planners can operate in a city that has creative citizens doing the work for them- they have less issues of waste management and space problems to handle, and are even able learn lessons from these innovators that are applicable to other urban centers in Uganda.
Mrs. Margaret Azuba-Semwanga of the Kampala City Council notes that while urban agriculture was once a 'No-Go' area, now it has become a 'Go!' area. Why? Because those at the top of the policy-making ladder are recognizing that innovations, for one thing, reduce repetitiveness (that may perpetuate inefficient habits and practices). In the constant search for best methods -for example, 'How Best can I grow herbs on my veranda?' and, 'How Best can I raise this heifer?'- authorities are impressed. It is through this evolution that important figures such as His Worship the Mayor of Kampala and His Excellency President Museveni have now incorporated urban agriculture into their Mandates. Ms. Azuba emphasizes that without the evidence of evolution in urban agriculture, resulting in growth and improvement for practitioners and consumer alike, those at the top would not have been inclined to integrate UA into their official plans for Uganda.
Avoiding the 'Ideals of Western Urban Mythology'
Progressive urban planning and agricultural policy must reflect spatial changes, and take into consideration the rising demand for locally produced food to stay abreast of rapid population growth. An evolving city of the developing world cannot ignore its personal cultural identity, and planners will face an uphill battle if they attempt to implement the modern Western city's strict lines and general rigidity. This mythology of urban superiority has inhibited growth for too long, restricted by redundant colonial-era planning laws. Growth then is only achievable when those at the top recognize the benefits of organized, regulated UA and put it on the agenda. I questioned some of those responsible for policy making in Kampala what their thoughts were on UA, and I was given interesting responses.
Her Worship Ms. Florence Mukasa Namayanja, Kampala Deputy Mayor and City Minister for Production and Marketing, recognizes that UA must be legalized to protect the people from harassment- as they will do it regardless of legal status, yet simultaneously it is the job of law enforcement officers to act against illegal activities. Her worship also mentions the value of UA for food security and income generation.
Mrs. Makumbi, Chairman of the Lubaga Division, ex-City Minister for Gender, Welfare and Community Services of Kampala District, was an instrumental force in the UA Ordinances passed just last year. She notes, "We shouldn't ban this just to become like other cities". Agriculture should be recognized as part of the Ugandan culture, whether occurring in the rural environment or in the cities, and it also must be regulated again because people will do it despite of illegal status. These promising reactions display Kampala's progressive tendency, one that does not deny Uganda's unique qualities (of rich, fertile soil combined with a good climate), and instead incorporates a holistic understanding of what will benefit all city-dwellers.
Good News: “The Ministry is planning to come up with a national policy to guide urban agriculture in all of Uganda” –Mr. John Muwanga, 20 July 2006
A New National Policy for Urban Agriculture
An urban farmer found within the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. John Muwanga explains the current political climate among the Ministries by mentioning the fact that as energy is now the 'hot topic' in Uganda, the Ministry of Agriculture is experiencing a substantial budget cut. Nonetheless, Mr. Muwanga is hopeful that the National Policy guiding urban agriculture for all of the urban centers in Uganda will be finalized and in effect by next year.
What will form the foundation of this policy? When asked if the Ministry is keen to discover the opinions on agricultural policy of Ugandan urban farmers themselves, Mr. Muwanga replied affirmatively, and when subsequently questioned on how the Ministry would obtain such information, he responded that the Ministry would utilize NGOs such as Environmental Alert.
Environmental Alert is the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Energy Globe. Housing the PROLINNOVA (PROmoting Local INNOVAtion) project of Uganda, it has shifted focus from exclusively rural to urban innovators as well, and is a major force for the inclusion of urban agriculture in the Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture. Environmental Alert is currently conducting countrywide research on farmer recommendations, to formulate a comprehensive policy Proposal for the National Policy on Urban Agriculture. Innovators are of particular interest, as they hold the most progressive, evolutionary ideas for best-practice urban farming procedures.
Advice from a Friendly Observer
Having learned so much about the way that urban agriculture operates in Kampala, I have certain recommendations for each of the 3 sectors encountered. To the farmers, I would say 'Link up! Through increased networking, you can eliminate those troublesome middlemen and greatly improve your production, augment your market access, and mutually share knowledge to the benefit all of all!' I would also encourage the farmers to join their district farmers association, KADIFA (the Kampala District Farmers Association). KADIFA provides useful training sessions and links to extension workers, as well as connecting farmers with similar area of expertise into special-interest groups. These special interest groups are currently working towards autonomy, by learning how to locate their own markets and mobilize resources with the help of KADIFA training courses. Soon, they will be on the road to total independence.
A common theme that I discovered among the farmer innovators was interest in and awareness of the benefits of organic farming, as well as a desire to move into the international marketplace. This is complementary, as European and other foreign markets are especially interested in purchasing organic produce, and some farmers are aware of the value-added to this practice in addition to the health benefits for their consumers (which naturally include themselves and their families). Through cooperation, farmers will have a stronger voice and may be able to form a powerful lobby for greater market access. Furthermore, those that are already knowledgeable on the use of organo-pesticides and other biological practices can spread the methods to those non-organic farmers, and everyone will benefit (particularly within the local community of consumers-Ugandans).
To those operating in the 'middle', the bi-lateral NGOs, CBOs and academic institutions, I would have to say, 'Good work'. Those I encountered, including local associations such as KADIFA and larger-scale NGOs such as Environmental Alert are truly listening to what the community wants, and are actively lobbying for sustainability in Uganda. KADIFA provides, as previously mentioned, extremely valuable training and knowledge sharing networks to farmers. Environmental Alert acts as the voice of the people, direct to the Ministry of Agriculture and other influential bodies. As mentioned above, Environmental Alert is currently conducting fieldwork to obtain policy recommendations from those on the ground- farmers found throughout all of Uganda's urban centers. This will feed into their proposal for the Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture, which will then guide UA activities nationally!
There are those working at the 'top' that are true environmentalists and those that are politicians exclusively. This dichotomy may be viewed as unfortunate, but I believe the contrary. To the policy-makers, technocrats and other politicians, I would say several things. Many politicians recognized the value of UA; they are aware of its societal contributions. Yet often times, they are not as clear on the helpful environmental impacts (and potentials) that UA holds. I would say to these people "Find those that know more than you, and utilize them. With their help, you will gain popularity because you are giving the voters what they want". Additionally, and potentially more important, 'Listen to the farmers; listen to the CBOs and NGOs. They are, in fact, the voice of the people'.
Kampala still has many problems with management and awareness. I would say something vital to the politicians: 'Listen to your academics.' Experts from Makerere, the venerable Ugandan university, can provide advice that would transform Kampala into a beaming modern city, yet one that does not forgo the local culture. Dr. Shuaib Lwasa describes Kampala as an interesting 'fusion of ideals from the North and the culture of the South', uniting 'to breed a new urban form'. Since they have no personal gain from helping farmers per se, it is wise then to harness their knowledge and simultaneously improve the reputation of any acting administration.
The Way Forward
Mrs. Azuba, Dr. Lwasa and others are currently involved in two projects that receive support from international organizations. The 'Edible Landscapes' project and the 'Focus Cities' initiative both provide the means to fast-track Kampala to a modern, healthy and sustainable city, and are both inclusive of vigorous, progressive urban farming activities. I hope to return to Kampala one day and find it cleaned up and better managed. There are still many problems (of waste disposal, for example) that hamper long-term development prospects, yet these concerns have solutions that are only waiting to be funded and implemented. The key is governmental motivation focused on active environmentalism with realistic initiatives. This must be coupled with a genuine desire to discover what common citizens have to say, particularly the poor. I hope that the Ugandan government continues to utilize their CBOs and NGOs, and listens to their academics as well as the ordinary man and woman. These people are inherently willing to support and promote holistic, sustainable development, and will provide invaluable advice to guide balanced development for the whole of Uganda.
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