Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

An Examination of a Community-Based Urban Agriculture Project: the Case of Musikavanhu in Budiriro, Harare

By Valentine Sedze
May 2006
University of Zimbabwe

On this web page we have placed the Abstract, Introduction - background, Conclusions/Recommendations. The complete paper can be downloaded here. (Word DOC 1.1 MB) An Examination of a Community-Based Urban Agriculture Project: the Case of Musikavanhu in Budiriro, Harare


The issue of hunger and food insecurity is a problem challenging many, if not all, African cities. In response to food insecurity urban agriculture has emerged within cities and is slowly gaining recognition as a viable community-based approach. In fact, for a variety of reasons interest in community-based urban agriculture projects is rising all over the country and the region. The aim of the study was to develop a comprehensive understanding of a community-based urban agriculture project. Specifically, the research analysed the organisation of Musikavanhu project in Budiriro, Harare, showing its relationships with external bodies, how it accessed land for urban agriculture and identified the nature of farming practices. Furthermore, the research was initiated to explore the effects that a community-based urban agriculture has on the community with the intent of identifying the actual benefits.

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background of study

Harare has a population of about 2.0 million residents (CSO 2002), located in 14 wards of suburban areas. Close to 70% of the population's livelihood is estimated to be below the poverty datum (PASS 1995). Urban agriculture is one of the major coping strategies for poverty alleviation. This has been recognised by City of Harare, which has included urban agriculture as a strategic area of intervention in its city planning. ENDA-Zimbabwe (1996) undertook a massive survey to understand the structure and dynamics of urban agriculture in Harare. The study produced a map of open space urban agricultural land use, characterized by agricultural producers in terms of location of residence, income, occupation and farming system used. The study showed that between 1990 and 1994 the total surface area used for urban agriculture almost doubled to 9300 hectares which was 16, 7% of Harare surface area. Most of this growth was the result of an expansion in off-plot food production and in cultivation on marginal land. The history of urban agriculture in Harare is illustrated in Table 1. The problem of illegal cultivation of public land started as early as the 1950's and has gained momentum ever since.

The cultivation of public space in Harare has largely been undertaken on vacant land adjacent to high-density housing areas. This land often comprises poorly drained vlei areas (67% of off-plot cultivated area) where soils are unsuitable for building. Roadside verges, land bordering railway tracks, and banks of ditches are also favoured. The cultivation is largely of crops for domestic consumption, mostly maize, groundnuts, sweet potatoes and green vegetables (Mbiba 1995).

The growth and geographical spread of urban agriculture in Zimbabwe is largely attributed to the harsh effects of economic structural adjustments programmes (ESAP), manifested by the erosion of basic wages, escalating prices of basic commodities and the widening of the gap between rich and poor households (Chaipa 2001: 17-18). Studies by ENDA-Zimbabwe in 1994 indicated that the total land area under cultivation in the City of Harare increased dramatically after the structural programmes were launched in the early nineties. The area under cultivation in the city has increased even further under the economic hardships of the last years.

The work of Musikavanhu Project in Budiriro was greatly enhanced by the prevailing harsh economic conditions in the country. The high retrenchments meant that most people lost their jobs and had to engage in alternative production systems, especially in the informal sector. The project offered hope in giving them a chance to produce their own food (Mushamba 2002: 28). Musikavanhu Project has emerged as one of the most organised grouping of urban farmers and this has enabled it to draw attention of government, companies, development organizations, Harare City council, inter alia.

5.1 Conclusions

5.2 Recommendations

1. Community-based urban agriculture projects must be recognized, encouraged and supported. Empowering and assisting community-based urban agriculture projects is the critical strategy for creating more urban agriculture projects and even sustaining existing ones.

2. City farmers should form, as is the case with Musikavanhu project, a coordinated approach that can give urban agriculture a recognized place within city administration. When farmers form cooperatives they can make formal requests for state land to be used for agricultural production.

3. There should be diversification of saving schemes in a community-based urban agriculture project. Credit should be combined with savings as savings could work as collateral to some extent. Diversification of different savings schemes could increase capital and in turn earn profit and address the credit needs of the members. A community must develop its own solution for securing and controlling the necessary elements for food production.

4. Considering the wide recognition urban agriculture has acquired, plans now need to be considered so that urban farmers do not lose their survival strategies. More importantly, local authorities' by-laws need to be adjusted so as to make provision for urban agriculture practice in open space areas.

5. Strategies to promote community-based food production should encompass policies to require production space in new housing developments, including rooftop and balcony gardening where feasible.

6. Funding sources need to be identified so as to further this initiative of community-based urban agriculture projects. Government should prepare budgets to promote urban agriculture which must be fully recognized as a priority and not be sidelined. However central government should target serious producers. If little value is attached on urban agriculture, it will never receive the much-needed attention and or allocation of resources.

7. The state and local government should develop policies aimed at proper allocation of public vacant lands to registered city farmers.

8. The case study reveals that further institutional cooperation is needed. Different ministries, government departments and private institutions should interact and collaborate to improve community-based urban agriculture

9. Activities such as workshops, conferences, networking and dissemination of information must be encouraged. These activities heighten awareness about the role and importance of urban agriculture to communities.

10. Support systems such as capacity building, sustainable programmes, and provision of extension services, technology and training must be a high priority.

11. Policy makers should not work in isolation from representatives of community-based urban agriculture project if the ever-increasing unique needs of the urban farmers are to be met.

12. An appropriate policy for the productive utilization of idle land reserved for future development is urgently needed. Such a policy should be sensitive to associated fields such as health, the environment and sustainability.

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June 17, 2006

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture