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


International Workshop on Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture

2-6 August 1999, Accra, Ghana

A Synopsis

Drechsel Pay
IBSRAM, Regional Office for Africa, Ghana

Dagmar Kunze
FAO, Regional Office for Africa, Ghana
FAO, Regional Office for Africa

The Meeting

The workshop was organized jointly by the African offices of the International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The workshop theme was: "Closing the nutrient cycle for urban food security and environmental protection", i.e. it focused on the resource base of urban and peri-urban agriculture and aimed to contribute to the understanding of the food chain and environmentally safe nutrient recycling/replenishing options from organic waste for different farming systems considering administrative, biophysical, and socioeconomic circumstances.

Special reference was given to West Africa, with acknowledgment of experiences from East Africa as well as other parts of the world. The workshop was limited to 60 participants. Two-thirds came from Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo), one third from Europe (Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, The Netherlands), Thailand, USA, and Canada. In all, 18 oral presentations, several posters and a field trip provided background information for the working group discussions.

The participants covered a broad range of stakeholders and disciplines related to the complex workshop theme. Among the farmer participants were the "best urban" and "best peri-urban" farmers of Accra and Kumasi (awards made during National Farmers' Day). Also present were waste managers, environmental scientists, economists, soil scientists, farming system specialists, extensionists, social scientists and agronomists, engineers, planners, administrators, and consultants. Participants came from NRI, FAO, IBSRAM, IFDC, IAGU, DLO, EAWAG, GFA, NUTRAP, as well as local NGOs and projects, different African and European universities, and the IDRC-supported networks on urban agriculture in West and East/South Africa.

The workshop was financed by IBSRAM and FAO with support from IDRC. The local co-hosting group was the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) represented by their Chief Executive, the Mayor of Accra. Opening addresses were given by the Hon. Minister of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Ghana; the Mayor of Accra; the Director General of IBSRAM; and the Assistant Director General and Regional Representative of FAO for Africa, as well as by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of Ghana. The opening was broadcast on the national television news.

The first scientific session, chaired by the DG of IBSRAM, included background papers and keynotes on the workshop theme by invited speakers (Chris Lewcock, Phil J.C. Harris, Martin Adam). The second session focused on options and realities of organic waste recycling; the third on the beneficiaries of these products, i.e. urban and peri-urban farming systems under consideration of environmental concerns. In the fourth session tools were presented for the analysis of food and nutrient flows, farmers' perceptions of waste products, and their economic feasibility. The tools' presentation included a GIS demonstration on the NRI approach to define the peri-urban interface, a PC demonstration on the recently developed GFA-GTZ tool for the Economic Analysis of Compost Projects, as well as another PC demonstration on the nutrient flow and balance model NUTMON, applied to the peri-urban context. The well-received field trip allowed the participants to visit small and large compost projects as well as a sewage treatment site in Accra.

In the final session before the working groups started, objectives and concepts of the IDRC- supported networks on (peri-)urban agriculture were presented by their representatives (see also below).

The Working Groups

Four working groups were established rather early, directly after the opening session, and their terms of reference distributed. Each working group had to answer four to five questions and was asked to bear these in mind during the paper presentations.

WG 1: Environment and Public Health (Facilitator: Chris Lewcock)

Working group 1 discussed the potential risks for the environment and public health in relation to urban and peri-urban agriculture. Risks may arise through the use of waste water, recycled waste stream products (compost from sewage, manure etc.), pesticides and by handling through marketing.

WG2: Nutrient Recycling (Facilitator: Phil Harris)

Working group 2 discussed the soil fertility aspects of peri-urban agriculture. It concentrated on the nutrient mining that takes place in farmers' fields versus the role that compost and other waste stream products may play as nutrient sources.

WG3: Policy, Planning, and Economics (Facilitators: Jacob Magid/Camillus Sawio)

Working group 3 discussed constraints to the use of waste stream products in urban and peri-urban agriculture with regard to policy regulations, planning priorities, as well as logistical, technical or economic shortcomings.

WG 4: Farmers' Points of View (Facilitator: Charles Quansah)

Working group 4 was asked to identify constraints and recommendations for urban and peri-urban agricultural development in general and with special reference to the workshop theme from the farmers' points of view. Six urban and peri-urban farmer representatives (including two women farmers) were asked for their experiences and views. They represented small as well as larger farms, livestock as well as crop farming. Some scientists/extensionists, well experienced in participatory on-farm research and with related communication skills facilitated and supplemented the discussion.

All four groups were asked to identify and prioritize problems, research/knowledge gaps as well as possible project ideas (research or technical assistance) with their related stakeholders.

The Results


The group focused its discussion on four areas: Sanitary infrastructure, water, soil, food and nutrition.

Infrastructure: Identified priority areas for projects or technical assistance were:

Water: Identified priority areas were:

Soil: Identified priority areas were:

Food nutrition: Identified priority areas were:


The working group recommended projects on the following objectives:

Gain an understanding of nutrient flows in existing (peri-)urban farming systems:

Quantify the amounts and value of materials available. Assess the agricultural potential of urban waste materials:

Scientific research and farmers' experimentation on the effects of using waste materials as inputs. This includes investigating:

Development/testing of appropriate waste processing technologies for a range of purposes that are sustainable given current resource constraints.

Improved research uptake and promotion pathways.

Institutional policy and fiscal issues were considered to be of paramount importance in determining the potential use of waste stream products such as municipal solid waste, especially with regard to cost-benefit analysis of waste management/recycling options. Researchable constraints were identified in this area but were felt to fall outside the terms of reference of this working group.

The group concluded as well that there is a major gap in the dissemination and extension of existing knowledge and research findings. There is a need to ensure that appropriate and effective uptake pathways are incorporated into any research initiatives. Development initiatives would require the training and support of extension services.


The working group identified a range of constraints to urban agriculture and organic waste recycling and suggested related solutions that should become objectives of technical assistance or human capacity building projects. Corresponding project objectives were listed:

Increase public awareness and better implementation of by-laws, technical directives, health orders etc. as well as more information on organic waste recycling options and opportunities. More institutional capacity building on strategic and integrated planning towards sustainable urban development and food security with

Improvement of infrastructure (financial, physical, personnel, and institutional).

Identification of feasible and appropriate technologies and equipment, which are transferable to local conditions and easy to maintain, but as effective as possible with respect to nutrient recycling, sanitation, and public health.

Enhanced investment in urban and peri-urban agriculture and waste management/recycling programmes:


The farmer group was asked to identify major and minor problems they face. The major problems listed were:

While the need for inputs was stressed, decline in soil fertility or land degradation as well as labour shortage and storage were ranked among the less pressing or obvious problems.

Asked for a project idea to address their problems, the following activities have been highlighted:

a) Research should study and give information appropriate for farmers on:

b) Training and extension should consider:

This will require, in part, institutional reforms concerning land policy, marketing, taxation, and the use of agro-chemicals (cf. WG 2 and 3).

It became obvious that the farmers' main requests were for more information and better education. Several of the issues highlighted in the farmers' group were also stressed in the other groups, such as the need for information on the different waste stream products, their availability, quality, handling, and application, or the need for more information on water quality. Moreover, problems related to the access to land and credit were recognized mutually. However, the farmers stressed more than the other groups the inappropriate education of extensionists concerning the problems, requirements, market dynamics, and related options and opportunities of urban and peri-urban agriculture. Farmers' field schools were identified as an additional tool that might help close the information gaps identified. On the other hand, farmers showed (naturally) little interest in the typology of farming systems, nutrient flows within farming systems, or their perceptions of waste stream products and willingness to use them (which was, as the discussion revealed, unanimously high, even for composted nightsoil although not for every crop).

Overall discussion

An important issue in the overall discussion arose from the presentation of the current and planned regional networks on urban agriculture in Africa. The participants, who mostly came from anglophone West Africa, expressed their concern that the new IDRC-supported network on Urban Agriculture in West Africa will only give an umbrella to French speaking countries. The Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture was therefore appealing to IBSRAM and FAO as well as the international donor community to find ways and means of including Ghana and its anglophone sister countries, such as Nigeria, into the network as early as possible. The Minister also expressed his hope that the workshop organizers would be able to facilitate the development of projects that can help West African cities to cope with the dramatic challenges they face as a result of the rapid urban population growth in the region.

Output and follow-up

The oral and poster presentations as well as a synopsis of the working group results will be published by IBSRAM/FAO. This summary will also be published on the City Farmer web site FAO and IBSRAM will try to follow up on the workshop output which will largely depend on the support of all interested parties including interested donors for the recommended activities and projects.

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Revised August 27, 1999

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture