Urban Agriculture For Food Security, Jobs And Waste Recovery:
Roundtable of Top Local Government Officials

UN Office Building, One UN Plaza
29 July 1997

at the

Second International Colloquium of Mayors on Governance for Sustainable Growth and Equity (UNDP),

United Nations, New York City, 28-30 July 1997


This roundtable of selected city administrators was called to give them an opportunity to share experiences and identify needs around Urban Agriculture (UA), and to help the Support Group on Urban Agriculture (SGUA,) focus assistance for better management of UA. The roundtable was organized and moderated by the International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC) and the Urban Agriculture Network (TUAN) with the assistance from the UNDP and the Urban Management Programmme (UMP) representatives. Publications and information from members of the the SGUA were made available (IDRC, UNDP, TUAN, IFPRI), as well as the landmark book written by TUAN and published by UNDP in 1996: Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities (see appendix 2 for list of SGUA members).


Thirty people attended the meeting (see appendix 1 for list of participants). Fifteen were representatives from 13 city administrations in 8 countries:

Senior officials from the United Nations organizations were also present:

Other representatives were from the Institute for Public Administration and an all-India NGO.

Trends in Urban Agriculture

Frank Hartvelt (UNDP) welcomed the participants and highlighted the links of urban agriculture to UNDP agenda issues of environment, women, poverty alleviation and governance. Luc Mougeot (IDRC) explained the "why" and "how" of the roundtable.

Two gathering trends have been converging over the last couple of years:

1. Growing recognition of the importance of UA worldwide and of its significance in our strategies to cope with new urban challenges. This recognition by official circles has been trickling up from the local level to the international development community, not down from international to local levels.

2. Growing efforts among international agencies at coordinating actions and pooling resources to strengthen institutional capacities in the South for better UA. A number of entities originally convened in 1992 by UNDP were formalized into the SGUA in 1996 at IDRC (see yellow brochure on the Global Initiative on Urban Agriculture for details)

Questions for Consideration by Mayors

Three questions were proposed to organize city interventions and guide the discussion:

  1. Is there UA in your city and if so, what has been the city administration's response to it so far?

  2. What are the achievements and challenges of UA that your administration faces?

  3. What resources or tools do you need to address these challenges, which SGUA members may help you obtain or develop?

City Presentations

The participants accepted the proposed agenda, and roundtable moderation was passed to Jac Smit (TUAN), who began the discussion by raising three points:

  1. From 1970 to 1990, in cities as disparate as Moscow and Dar es Salaam there was a socio-economic and food system transformation. In Moscow, the share of families engaged in raising food grew from 20 percent to 65 percent, and in Dar es Salaam from 18 percent to 68 percent. In the 1970s, one in five urban families farmed, and in the 1990s it was two out of three.

  2. In the worlds richest country, the USA, from 1994 to 1996 there was a forty percent increase in farmers' markets selling locally-grown produce on the street and in parking lots (from 1,740 to 2,410). Also, in the 1990s, from 1990 to 1994, the number of hectares being farmed in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare, doubled, as measured from aerial photographs. Thus, a long-term, 20-year trend to increased urban agriculture may be accelerating in the 1990s.

  3. Two countries lead the way in reinventing urban agriculture in the 1990s, and we can learn from them: Cuba and South Africa. The ANC brought a policy of favoring UA with them to Pretoria in the first democratic government in 1990, and it has flourished with NGO, local government, provincial government, national government and international support. In 1992, the Cuban local and national governments changed their 50-year old policy to favour UA. By 1994, it had in place: seed stores for supplies, reopened street markets, TV programs, extension services, and facilitated access to public land. In Cuba, as in RSA, international support poured in from Canada, Australia, USA, and others.

    Views and experiences in urban agriculture in 8 cities followed.

    LUSAKA, Zambia (Mayor Fisho P. Mwale):

    UA in this city is associated with residential squatting on urban land. It is viewed as a socioeconomic problem, not as a solution. It is fuelled by rural-to-urban and urban-to-urban migration. There is no institutional response to the phenomenon at the moment. Authorities are hesitant to be more pro-active on UA because it is largely seen as resulting from a failure to address rural development adequately. It is creating havoc in urban land use planning and management. It is holding up city development and redevelopment. There are concerns with health risks (malaria diffusion) and UA is placing pressure on scarce urban water resources. Lusaka is currently receiving assistance in UA from NORAD.

    Role for the SGUA: We need assistance from SGUA in mitigating the negative impacts of certain types of UA.

    PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago (Mayor John Rahael):

    Land availability for UA varies greatly from one city to another, in Trinidad & Tobago. In some it is very limited (Port-of-Spain, where patio gardeners using old tires are supported) while in others it is more abundant. Therefore, UA must be tailored to the constraints and opportunities of specific city situations in terms of available resources. Agriculture, whether in rural or in urban areas, is under the jurisdiction of the central government and local governments can do little on their own in this sector, currently. There is a large potential for UA to assist with the recycling of urban wastes in a more comprehensive management strategy for waste reduction, collection and disposal. Local authorities of several cities are proposing to hold a symposium on UA to address these and other related matters.

    Role for the SGUA: We need: - integration (policy) of local and national agriculture and urban development agencies, and - awareness to be raised.

    QUETZALTENANGO, Guatemala (Mayor Rigoberto Quem, Chay):

    The ownership of urban land in central cities is concentrated in the hands of a non-indigenous minority. City land in Quetzal is controlled by an elite, while urban producers are forced to farm steep slopes on the periphery. The country's agricultural policy is designed and implemented to support exports crops, with little, if any, assistance to indigenous production for local consumption. Although there is extensive horticulture on peri-urban minifundios, this is not supported officially. Traditional production focuses on grains. Perhaps multicrop, biointensive production of vegetables and small livestock will be more economically feasible. There is currently no municipal responsibility for UA; however, we think there should be.

    Role for the SGUA: We need: - training for producers to become capable in more efficient farming systems and to add value to their products in an affordable way. - greater recognition for UA - national support for local government's role in UA.

    LA HABANA, Cuba (Principal Adviser Gina Rey):

    UA is already a reality in La Havana, as a result of a deliberate effort by the government to strengthen urban food self-reliance, after the fall of food production and imports, associated higher energy costs, and the end of favourable trade terms with the former USSR. Metro Habana has 15 local governments that all support UA. There is currently a debate about what to do with UA in the longer term, as some urban planners still view it as a response to an emergency situation. The growth of UA has been buttressed by two important factors: the availability of non-built public land, even in central parts of the city, and the requests from people who want to use this land to produce food.

    The government has authorized the use of this land for UA, even in central areas of La Havana (much in the same way as Ms. Rey has seen in New York City). It also has been providing technical assistance to producers. The "huertos populares" or community gardens are particularly successful. International support has come from Canada, Australia, USA and others.

    One constraint which the government needs to address is the fact that UA can compete for water resources which, however subsidized to the consumer, are nevertheless expensive to produce and deliver. Also, there is a need to curb the use of chemical pesticides. We have lost most of our butterflies and birds. In the near future, the government expects to promote not so much further expansion of UA in La Havana, but rather its consolidation, as a productive way to manage the urban environment.

    Role for the SGUA: We need: - legitimization - technical assistance, including IPM (integrated pest management).

    KAMPALA, Uganda (Mayor Christopher Iga):

    The City administration of Kampala sees UA as an efficient way to use urban land optimally (interim use of idle land). The health concerns (e.g. malaria), although legitimate, have not been verified in the studies which have looked into them; such concerns are not exclusive to UA.

    UA has several advantages in Kampala: - it increases urban food security (produce from rural areas is expensive and less fresh) - creates sources of income (particularly livestock) - reduces open space maintenance costs to local government (e.g.: Jinja). Good UA depends crucially on producers being granted proper agricultural extension and advice, including assistance for selecting crops carefully.

    Role for the SGUA: We need: - assistance with intensification of sustainable production methods - advice on reuse of urban waste water and solid waste, - advice on IPM, - networking with other countries

    BRASILIA, D.F., Brazil (Governor Cristovao Buarque):

    The problem of UA in the Federal District is not one of production but of marketing. Consumers buy products in supermarkets that are imported from other regions, while local producers nearby struggle to sell theirs. The government has embarked on a project to stimulate the linkages between local production, local processing and local consumption. It has now established 100 small agro-industrial enterprises (average cost is 3,000 USD) which produce vegetables and livestock. These industries also process their production (e.g. yoghurt from milk) thus adding value to local products and generating employment and income.

    The products are sold in public markets, and compete with supermarkets that sell only imported goods. (A brochure describing this project was distributed.) Thus, we support globalization without social exclusion through UA. Local government loans of a few thousand dollars are being repaid in two, three or four months; the government trains, monitors, promotes. This needs to be recognized by international agencies and supported for replication, as a way to strengthen local food self-reliance with a range of other socioeconomic benefits attached to it.

    Role for the SGUA: We need SGUA to bring attention to this model which may be relevant to many countries in Latin America and Africa.

    EL CARMEN DE VIBORAL, Colombia (Mayor Alpidio Betancur Zuluaga):

    In the large Medellin area, where there is a shortage of land, a former secretary of agriculture, with the assistance of ENDA, promoted hydroponic vegetable projects. There are no problems with land availability for UA in the other cities. In the Department of Antioquia, UA is bringing about social integration, and in Baranquilla it is an important component of food security.

    Role for the SGUA: We need policy advice and training from SGUA.

    BARRA MANSA, Brazil (Mayor Ines Pandelo):

    The city is located in the coffee and dairy belt. The local vegetable production is sold in weekly fairs, where it competes with imports in supermarkets.

    Role for the SGUA: The City administration sees three needs to further promote local UA production: - awareness at all levels of society to motivate more city dwellers to produce on vacant or idle land; - the extensive use of non-treated waste-water to irrigate vegetable plots must be reduced (treatment and monitoring needed], - open fairs must be better planned/managed for local products to compete with imports.

    Summary of Discussion: Challenges and Benefits of Urban Agriculture

    • need for water-conserving farming systems, cost recovery from water-consuming producers, treatment of wastewater for vegetable irrigation;

    • need for adequate agricultural technical supervision/extension to producers (site-appropriate crop selection, integrated pest management, efficient production technologies, affordable value-adding);

    • need to promote and finance greater linkages between production, processing (agro-industry) and marketing for more self-reliant urban food systems, more local employment and revenues;

    • need for greater decentralization of agricultural policy from central to municipal governments, for support to locally relevant urban food production and sustainable urban food systems.

    Concluding Remarks

    Jac Smit introduced the UN officials in attendance. He observed that for all the problems raised by the various speakers, locally proven solutions do exist, many in Asia, which can be referred to the participants by both TUAN and IDRC, and other members of the SGUA. He recommended the internet website as a good place to learn from each other.

    Luc Mougeot thanked all participants, informed the group that the Latin American UA network, AGUILA, is now operational and discussions are underway for Cuba to host the 1998 AGUILA meetings. A South African workshop reviewing municipal experiences in that country is scheduled for March 1998, and support to African networking is to start in 1998. Jac Smit mentioned the start-up by ETC Foundation of a European UA Network and UA conferences being planned for Jakarta and Mexico City in 1998.

    Appendix 1

    Urban Agriculture For Food Security, Jobs And Waste Recovery:
    Roundtable for Top Local Government Officials
    29 July 1997
    at the
    Second International Colloquium of Mayors on Governance for Sustainable Growth and Equity (UNDP),
    United Nations, New York City, 28-30 July 1997

    List of Participants:

    • Hanna Antonsson, IPA, New York City, U.S.A.,
      fax: 212-730-5480

    • Francis Bertrand, Mayor, Point Fortin, Trinidad & Tobago,
      fax: 809-648-0718

    • Cristovao Buarque, Governor, Brasilia, D.F., Brasil,
      fax: 61-561-3535

    • Yves Cabannes, UMP-LAC, Quito, Ecuador,
      fax: 593-2-500-552/553

    • Rigoberto Quem, Chay, Mayor, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala,
      fax: 502-761-2845

    • Terrayne Leigh Crawford, New York City, U.S.A., Geneva, Switzerland,
      fax: 212-687-5755

    • Ren, Coulomb, Mexico, D.F., Mexico,
      fax: 52-5-550-0821

    • Ximena de la Barra, Senior Urban Advisor, Program Division UNICEF, New York City, U.S.A.,
      fax: 212-824-6483

    • Frank Hartvelt, Director, Water, Waste Management and Aquatic Environment, Sustainable Energy and Environment Division, UNDP, New York City, U.S.A.,
      fax: 212-906-6973

    • Alfredo Antonio Naranjo Hurtado, Mayor, Guare, Colombia, fax: 55-100-25

    • Antonio Jos, (CAFU), Brasilia, D.F., Brasil,
      fax: 61-348-8060/61/62

    • Christopher R.M. Iga, Mayor, Kampala, Uganda,
      fax: 256-41-254-892

    • Peggy Kerry, US Mission to the UN,
      fax: 212-415-4053

    • Juan Lopera, Mayor, La Ceja, Colombia,
      fax: 94-553-0785

    • Peter Matlon, Director, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security UNDP, New York City,
      fax: 212-906-6973

    • Fisho P. Mwale, Mayor, Lusaka, Zambia,
      fax: 260-1-25-41-47 and 25-21-41

    • Luc J.A. Mougeot, IDRC, Ottawa, Canada,
      fax: 1-613-567-7749

    • Marina O'Malley, Barra Mansa, RJ, Brasil,
      fax: 24-322-7249

    • Ines Pandelo, Mayor, Barra Mansa, Brasil,
      fax: 0243-22-0990

    • John Rahael, Mayor, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago,
      fax: 809-623-6024

    • Alexandra Reschke, President, Development Housing Institute, Brasilia, Brasil,
      fax: 61-325-1921

    • Gina Rey, La Habana, Cuba,
      fax: 537-24-26-61

    • K. C. Sivaramakrishna, National Foundation for India, New Delhi,
      fax 464 1867

    • Jac Smit, President TUAN, Washington D.C., U.S.A.,
      fax 202-363-5824

    • Paul Taylor, Global Programme Coordiniator, UMP, UNCHS, Nairobi, Kenya,
      fax: 254-2-624-254

    • Narelle Towsend, Institute of Public Administration, IPA; New York City, U.S.A.,
      fax: 212-730-5480

    • Christian Webersik, UNDP, New York City, U.S.A.

    • Magna Williams Smith, Mayor, Diego Martin, Trinidad & Tobago,
      fax: 809-637-8072

    • Alpidio Betancur Zuluaga, Mayor, El Carmen de Viboral, Colombia,
      fax: 94-543-2116

    Appendix 2

    Members of the Support Group on Urban Agriculture (SGUA)

    • CARE International,
      Atlanta, US

    • City Farmer,
      Vancouver, Canada

    • Developing Countries Farm Radio Network,
      Toronto, Canada

    • DGlS *(Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs),
      Den Haag, NL

    • ETC Netherlands,
      Leusden, NL

    • FAO* (UN Food and Agriculture Organization),
      Rome, IT

    • GTZ (German Technical Cooperation),
      Eschborn, Germany

    • lDRC* (International Development Research Centre),
      Ottawa, Canada

    • lFPRl (International Food Policy Research Institute),
      Washington, D.C., US

    • NRl (Natural Resources International),
      Kent, UK

    • TUAN (The Urban Agriculture Network),
      Washington, D.C., US

    • UNDP* (United Nations Development Programme),
      New York, US

    • World Bank,
      Washington, D.C., US

    • World Sustainable Agriculture Association,
      West Hollywood, US

    • Members of the academic community.

    * Interim Steering Committee

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Revised August 23, 1997

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