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Urban Agriculture In The Seasonal Tropics Of Central Southern Africa


A Case Study Of Lusaka/Zambia


A.W. Drescher (PhD., Ass. Prof./Priv.-Doz.)
(C) Copyright 1997
Section on Applied Physiogeography of the Tropics and Subtropics (APT)
Universität Freiburg
Hebelstrasse 27, D-79104 Freiburg, i. Br./ FRG
drescher@ruf.uni-freiburg.de
The original paper including figures (World 6.0 format) can be obtained by e-mail.


First presented at Urban Agriculture: A growing Development Tool: An International Policy Workshop, NRI/CPU, London, June 29, 1994

Second presented and modified at the International Conference on Sustainable Urban Food Systems, May 22-25, 1997, Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, Canada.


Introduction

Hunger and malnutrition in the world are increasing not only due to growing population and loss of yield but also caused by the destruction of natural plant resources and loss of food diversity. Past management strategies of Household Food Security often failed because they where based on the "macro-level" (governments, administrations, ministries). Therefore new strategies focus on the "micro-level" like the individual Household (Kampmann, 1992).

There is hardly any other field of investigation with such an urgent need for an interdisciplinary approach, as research on Household Food Security and Vulnerability. During 1992 and 1993 a research project on urban agriculture was carried out in Zambia's capital Lusaka, in peri-urban areas of Lusaka and rural areas of Zambia. The so called Household Garden Survey concentrated on the Household Garden activities as an important part of the landuse system, which seems to contribute significantly to Household Food Security. The agricultural activities in rainy season, where people mostly grow staple food crops, for example maize where also considered in the survey although these where not the primary objective. This paper focuses on the situation in Lusaka and gives some preliminary results of the survey. Main objective of the Household Garden Survey was to clarify the role of Household Gardens for Household Food Security in Zambia.

In detail:


Urban Development of Lusaka

Lusaka is one of the fastest growing cities in the developing world and had a population of 1.192 million inhabitants in 1991 (CSO, 1992). Since 1980 the population of Lusaka has nearly doubled. The growing rate between 1980 and 1990 is 6.1 %, and the population density is given with 2 728 persons per km2 (CSO, 1990).

Figure 1 shows the population development of Lusaka since 1950. (Not available here)

Only recently first steps where taken to get more interest in agriculture in urban centres. For Lusaka up to now no statistical material on Food Security is available. Therefore no information is available on agricultural production and yields nor in the urban centre neither in the peri-urban area.

Figure 1: Population Development of Lusaka/Zambia 1950 - 1993 (Not available here)

As figure 1 indicates, there will be a much higher need for food in Lusaka in the future. Simultaneously the build up area will increase and the agricultural land will decrease further. No Township of the western World would manage to handle growing rates of about 70.000 persons per year, neither with respect to housing, nor to education and infrastructure. How should the developing world be able to do so ?


Current nutritional situation of Zambia's population

Among all the counries in the Southern part of Africa Zambia shows very high rates of malnutrition. Previous studies indicate that malnutrition is greater in rural areas than in urban areas. Data from the Priority Survey confirm that the prevalence of underweight and stunted growth is higher in the rural areas, both indicators of chronic malnutrition. The prevalence of wasting however, indicating current poor nutritional status, is significantly higher in the urban population (NFNC, 1993 a, b).

Zambia has to deal with major health problems of which Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) is the most important with its prevalence, resulting morbidity and mortality and its long-term consequences. Iron deficiency (anaemia) is also a serious health problem as well as vitamin A deficiency (FAO, 1993). Vegetables from Household Gardens can contribute to the nutrition especially by their content of Vitamin A and micro-elements. In many cases gathered and domesticated indigenous vegetables are more nutritious than the introduced exotics (Table 1). In other cases gathered leaves might contain anti-nutritional factors which can be reduced, or removed, by appropriate processing and cooking (Redhead, 1985; FAO, 1981).

Table 1: Nutritional value of some widely grown or gathered vegetables
FoodMoisture% Protein (g) Fat (g) Ca(mg) Iron (mg) Carotene equival. (g)Vit C (mg)
Brassica oleracea var capitata (Cabbage) 93.0 1.6 0.3 55 0.8 280 46.0
Amaranthus spp. (cooked) 84.5 4.0 0.9 506.0 1.7 n.n n.n
Marnihot esculenta (Cassava, dried leaves) 27.4 32.5 1.5 313.0 8.0 n.n n.n
Ipomoea batatas (Sweet Potato - raw leaves) 83.0 4.6 0.2 158.0 6.2 5.870 70.0
Curcubita pepo (Marrow - leaves) 89.0 4.0 0.2 477.0 0.8 3.600 80.0
Adansonia digitata (Baobab - dried leaves) 11.8 12.3 3.1 2.241 24.0 9.710 trace
Beta vulgaris (Swiss Chard) 92.0 2.0 0.2 132.0 0.7 600 50.0
Lycopersicon lycopersicum (Tomato) 93.0 1.0 0.2 10.0 0.6 450 26.0
(Sources: FAO, 1990; Tindall, 1992)


Where does Lusaka get its vegetables from ?

Garden activities in townships provide a source of vegetables often still of the "traditional type", e.g.the very widely distributed Amaranthus spp. In 1991 a group of researchers carried out a survey on vegetable supply of urban townships in Zambia (Ogle & Malambo, 1991).

According to Ogle & Malambo (1991) nearly 50% of the respondents practise vegetable gardening, according to our observations mostly in dry season.

Still 11.4 % of the respondents practise gathering of vegetables. From the Household Garden Survey carried out in 1992/93, it became clear that nearly 40 % of the members of the survey in Lusaka Town still practise gathering to create additional food or income. In peri-urban and rural areas still 80 % of the Households, which where included in the survey practised gathering. All these families do have gardens, which might be supportive to the gathering activity.

Table 2: Main source(s) of vegetables in urban areas
(Source: Ogle & Malambo, 1991)
TownLusakKabweNdola
Number of Households 82 42 58
Source of Vegetable % % %
Council Market 79 95 70
Street Vendor 62 69 57
Our Garden 49 50 50
Gather from Bush 5 24 12

(Source: Household Garden Survey 1992/1993)

Figure 2: Gathering of Wild vegetables and wild fruits in urban, peri-urban and rural areas of Zambia (n = 85 owners of Household Gardens) (Not available here)

The low figures for gathering in the urban environment clearly indicate, that urban households are more vulnerable in times of food shortages because no compensation through gathering is possible. This is due to vanishing plant resources around the urban centres.


Looking in the Past

A study on urban nutrition in 1954 carried out by Thomson describes the crops grown in the 'gardens'. These 'gardens' where then called 'bush' gardens and 'house' gardens (Thomson, 1954). The 'bush' gardens are probably the rainy season plots and the 'house' gardens seem to be the actual gardens, near the homestead. Thomson compares the agricultural activity in two areas in Lusaka: The Main Location and Chilenje Township. The Main Location is a highly dense and poor area but not specified further. Most likely this area was one of the squatter townships where servants and workers lived in that time. "Cultivation around the huts is negligible owing to lack of water and lack of space", Thomson states. In this area no Household Gardens where found at that time. About Chilenje Township (at that time a new housing area in the Southern part of Lusaka, today a medium dense housing area). Thomson says: "Each house has its own separate kitchen and latrine and the whole unit is built on one-eight of an acre of ground so that there is room around the house for gardens to be made. 78% of the Households are cultivating around the houses. In most cases food crops are cultivated (mainly pumpkins and groundnuts), but some families grow flowers in front of the house" (Thomson, 1954). This gives a clear indication that appropriate town planning is the basis for the stabilisation of Households with respect to Food Security.


Urban Agriculture in Lusaka in the Eighties and Nineties

In Lusaka as in many other tropical urban centres, gardening and agriculture are very little supported by the local authorities. In contrary, the City Councils often prohibit these activities. Even in the drought year of 1992, with it's extreme shortage of food, the City Council of Lusaka suppressed urban agriculture, by menacing the people to slash the maize down.

There are four types of agriculture in Lusaka: Gardening for food, semi-commercial and commercial gardening and rainy season agriculture.

Jaeger & Huckabay (1986) identified the geographical location of the different agricultural activities and noticed approximately concentric circles around the urban centre. "Household Gardens", "Kitchen Gardens" or "Backyard Gardens" occupy the central zone, while the semi-commercial and commercial type of agriculture is situated at the periphery. The rainy season agriculture is only practised between end of October and mid of May. Only if there is a permanent water source available (natural wetlands, rivers, small dams, like in Kabangwe, north of Lusaka, in the Shantumbu Escarpment, south of Lusaka or the Chainama Hills, easterly of town) gardening is a permanent activity. In May/June 1980 Sanyal carried out a survey on agricultural activities in Lusaka (Sanyal, 1985). His survey covered five compounds of Lusaka: Jack-Extension, Mtendere, Kalingalinga, Matero and Chilenje-South. He was able to show that an average of 13 % of the Households practised both rainy season agriculture and gardening in dry season. In comparison with data now available we conclude, that the gardening activity in Lusaka has increased since 1980, except in high density areas, where no space for gardening is available.

The role of women in the issue of Household Food Security needs special attention. In Africa south of the Sahara, the labour of women is more important in all parts of the food production than the labour of men (Fresco, 1986). They must provide the agricultural labour needed in every phase of the food cycle to guarantee the family's nutrition. At the same time, they cannot neglect their other tasks of food preparation, child care, fetching water and fuelwood, washing, housecleaning and looking after the small animals (Presvelou, 1986). Besides these tasks women also generate income, which is often more than half of the total Household income (Due, 1985 and Fresco, 1986). Thus in many ways women play an important role in the food supply of Households: through their productive labour, their decisions on production, consumption and division of food and through their income, which can contribute to buy food. The literature shows for example, that income of women has a greater impact on the health and nutrition status of the children than the income of men (Maxwell, 1992). (Source: Household Garden Survey 1992/1993)

Figure 3: Involvement of Women and Men in Agriculture in the Urban Environment (Not available here)

Figure 3 shows the percentage of involvement of the population in agricultural activities and the participation of women in agriculture in the urban environment of Lusaka.


Of 648 persons asked upon their involvement in agricultural activities in Lusaka, 42.6 % answered: "yes, we practise gardening". Still nearly 30 % practise irrigation or watering in dry season, which means gardening. As figures 2 and 3 show, there are significant differences between the different townships of Lusaka concerning agricultural activities. Additionally there are gender specific differences. These differences have to be analysed further.

(Source: Household Gardening Survey 1992/1993)

Figure 4: Involvement of Women and Men in Gardening in the Urban Environment (Not available here)

Nearly 50 % of the women are involved in agriculture but only 35 % of the men are. In the more market oriented peri-urban environment, 74,8 % of women and 72,4 % of men are practising agriculture (n = 296). Also the role of children should not be neglected. From quite a young age they are valuable labour forces in food production for the Household or contribute in some other way to the Household's income.

In all compounds women are more involved in agriculture and gardening as men are. Involvement in agriculture means both dry season gardening and rainy season agriculture. In rainy season the production of staple foods is prevalent, while in dry season the people concentrate on vegetable production. Similar observations were made in rural areas of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The differences between dry season gardening activities and rainy season agriculture get obvious in comparing Fig. 3 and 4. In total only 31.6 % of women and 24.3 % of men practise gardening. While in Chilenje and Matero nearly 50 % of the women practise gardening, the involvement in other townships like Matero, George and Chawama is still about 25 %. Kanyama is a special case with very low activity with respect to gardening. Here only 10 % of women and 7 % of men are involved in gardening.


Rainy Season Agriculture in Lusaka

Jaeger & Huckabay (1980) found rainy season plots in the urban area with a medium size of 300 m2. The field survey carried out in 1992/1993 shows, that the average size has increased significantly to 423 m2 (n = 46). The compensation of the deterioration of the economical situation since 1980 might be one reason for the increment of cultivated area.

Schultz (1976) mentioned the rainy season plots as "subsidiary gardens" and later they were described as "distant gardens" (Schlyter, 1991). These practices are mostly illegal land usage of fallow areas in town. Van den Berg (1982) calls this type of landuse "semi-vacant landuse".

The limited land resources are fully used in rainy season, public property like the University Campus, areas around hospitals or road strips are used illegally for agricultural purposes.

Table 3: Size of Rainy Season Plots in Lusaka Central
Location Average Size
Kalingalinga/Fridays Corner 571 m2
Kalingalinga/Old City Airport 475 m2
Great East Road "Chinama Hill" 666 m2
Great East Road "Chinama Hills" Hospital 273 m2
Ibex Hill 231 m2
Great East Road Campus "Dambo" 321 m2
Average Size N=46 423 m2
(Source: Field Survey carried out in December 1992/January 1993)

Intercropping systems contain up to four different crops. Most frequently, the combination of maize, beans and pumpkin was observed. Sweet potatoes are cultivated separately on ridges. It seems that sweet potato becomes an increasingly important crop, probably as a substitute for other staples. Here the Household Garden plays an important role as a dry season nursery for sweet potato plants. In nearly all the recorded gardens sweet potato was present.

In total ten different crops where recorded in the rainy season 1992/93 (Table 4).

Table 4: Rainy Season Crops recorded in Lusaka Central in 1992/93
maize beans
pumpkin sweet potato
bananas okra
tomatoes cucumber
ground nuts cassava
(Source: Field surveys December 1992/January 1993)

The urban rainy season agriculture is according to Sanyal (1985) an activity practised mostly by the poorest part of the population with the lowest per capita income. Simultaneous, this part of the population shows the lowest percentage of involvement in gardening (according to the 1992/93 survey). This shows once again, that the poorest part of the population lives in highly dense housing areas where no space for gardening is available. Also rainy season agriculture seems less connected with the state of living and well being but more with the availability of resources in the urban environment.

Some other reasons not to garden are:

The nutritional stage of the population is poor and the overall economical tension is very high. Therefore the urban agricultural activities are too important for the population to be stopped by the City Council without causing the risk of riots.


Understanding Urban Agriculture - Household Garden Modelling

The Household Gardening Model (Figure 5) assists to understand at least some of the factors influencing gardening activities. The Household itself is based in the centre of the model. Internal and external factors, e.g. labour availability, access or "entitlement" to resources, education, occupation, etc. determine the Vulnerability of the Household.

The undefined land tenureship and the illegal character of some of the compounds explain the insufficient availability of resources like land and water. This is a limiting factor to agricultural activities, as already mentioned by Jaeger & Huckabay (1986). Further on the agricultural activity will be limited by the expansion of official and unofficial residential land use and commercial activities in the peri-urban areas. Schultz (1976) pointed out that the "ring of cultivation" around the central urban zone is likely to be pushed outwards by this process of urbanisation.

Figure 5: Household Gardening Model 11 (Not available here)

Schlyter's very detailed study of George Compound shows how this process destroys land for gardening inside townships (Schlyter, 1991). The only areas where gardening has increased were roadstrips created by road construction, but this type of cultivation is illegal again. At the same time population pressure on resources increases, which probably will cause serious social problems in the future.

Analysing a household with attention to strategies and the Household's resources, can provide more information about vulnerable Households. For example a Households access to assets is often a good determinant of its Vulnerability (Chambers, 1989). The case of Kanyama is one example for the limited access to basic resources like land and water. This compound is one of the most dense residential areas of Lusaka, originally determined as medium/low cost area (Jaeger & Huckabay, 1986) but without outdoor space and water for gardening and very limited land resources for rainy season agriculture due to rock outcrops. This example also shows, how the "poorest of the poor" might even be cut of basic needs like gardening because of limited resources. Household Gardening as a coping strategy for survival cannot be practised here. Even if tools, money and seeds might be available, Vulnerability increases because of limited land and water resources.

Diversity of food and income resources (cash and kind, farm and non-farm) is considered to be one of the main 'buffers' Households can develop against risk in agrarian environments but also in urban environments with poor economic development and diversity. Household Gardening can form a buffer for a Household by three means: income generating, resource saving and food-supply. It is vital, therefore, to any understanding of Household coping and survival strategies, and ultimately to the effective design of Food Security Strategies, that the relative importance of different income sources, the characteristics of these income sources in terms of seasonal fluctuations, sustainability, etc. and the responses of individuals and Households to these characteristics, be well understood (Maxwell, 1992).

Policy decisions are not a question of external modernisation (and commercialisation) of small scale agriculture any more, but a question of the ability to integrate appropriate technologies and new management strategies. Schulthes (1992) defines integration the key to successful management and clearly points out how difficult this appears to national bureaucracies. The questions and more important, the answers of the smallholders to their problems can significantly contribute to the understanding and improvement of currently practised small scale agriculture.


Conclusions for future action and development strategies

The preliminary findings of the ongoing research show that the basis for urban agriculture is the availability of resources. The potential for development of the urban agricultural sector is high. The formal economic sector in urban centres of developing countries is mostly little developed. Consequently it does not provide adequate income for the urban population. Urban agriculture can act as an alternative activity and as a buffer for Household Food Security. Some of the following recommendations should therefore be given to policy makers in the future:

Strengthening rural development


Acknowledgements

Very special thanks to Frieda Bos (Agricultural University of Wageningen, The Netherlands), for contributing in field work and theoretical framework and especially for the support of the socio-economic component of the research project. Paul Muwowo (University of Zambia) strongly supported the fieldwork, helped a lot to understand the people and was a perfect student. Thanks also to the FAO Project (TCP/ZAM /2553), Lusaka/Zambia for the support of the research project in 1993.


Summary

During 1992 and 1993 a research project on urban agriculture was carried out in Zambia's Capital Lusaka, in peri-urban areas of Lusaka and rural areas of Zambia. The so called Household Garden Survey concentrated on the Household Garden activities as an important part of the landuse system, which seems to contribute significantly to Household Food Security. Zambia shows very high rates of malnutrition among the countries of the Southern part of Africa. Previous studies indicate that malnutrition is greater in rural areas than in urban areas. The prevalence of wasting however, indicating current poor nutritional status, is significantly higher in the urban population. In Lusaka as in many other tropical urban centres, gardening and agricultural activities are very little supported by the local authorities. In contrary often City Councils prohibit this kind of activities. The urban environment was (therefore?) neglected in the past, especially regarding agriculture, gardening, and Food Security. There are four types of agriculture in Lusaka: Gardening for food, semi-commercial and commercial gardening and rainy season agriculture. The role of women in urban agriculture is most important. The women are more involved in agriculture and gardening in all compounds of Lusaka as the men are. In rainy season the production of staple foods is prevalent, while in dry season the people concentrate on vegetable production. Additionally gathering contributes to food and income in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. From the Household Garden Survey carried out in 1992/93, it became clear that nearly 40 % of the members of the survey in Lusaka Town still practise gathering to create additional food or income. Eighty per cent of the Households in peri-urban and rural areas, which where included in the survey, still practise gathering. But still the urban population shows, due to vanishing plant resources, lowest involvment in the gathering activity. A Household Gardening Model was developed to enable a better understanding of the gardening activity in the social and environmental context. The Model can assist to understand at least some of the factors influencing urban agriculture. The Household itself is based in the centre of the model. Internal and external factors, e.g. labour availability, access or „entitlement“ to resources, education, occupation, etc. determine the Vulnerability of the Household. During the fieldwork it became obvious, that gardening contributes to Food Security directly by providing food and indirectly by creating income respectively saving expenditures in the urban environment. Generally gardening is based within the landuse system and directly interconnected and influenced by the dominant system in the survey areas. The results presented are still preliminary because the project is still ongoing.


References

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