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


Urban and Periurban Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development for Sustainable Vegetable Production and Marketing Systems

Vietnam, Laos, Philippines

Robert J. Holmer, Wilfried H. Schnitzler

Dr. Robert J. Holmer
Project Manager, Periurban Vegetable Production Project
Xavier University College of Agriculture
P.O. Box 78 9000
Cagayan de Oro PHILIPPINES

The following research project, funded by the European Commission, has research sites in Cagayan de Oro (Philippines), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and Vientiane (Laos). The project is assisted by researchers from Germany (TU Munich) and France (CIRAD).

More information about the project, particularly on actual research results, can be accessed through the project homepage

Project Summary Rationale

The world's urban population continues to grow at approximately twice the rate of total population growth. It is expected to increase from 2.76 billion in 1995 to 5.34 billion in the year 2025 at which time more than half will reside in Asian cities. This development is primarily driven by the rapid urbanization of low-income countries, where urban population grows at three times the rural rate, exerting greater pressure on the natural environment than ever before (UNFPA, 1996). Urban agriculture is a growing global phenomenon practiced by an estimate of 800 million people which produce 10 percent of the world's food supply (UNDP, 1996). For the present project study funded by the INCO-DC program of the European Union, three cities in South-East Asia were selected which represent different levels of urbanization and hence allow research studies on urban vegetable production based on different starting conditions:

Ho Chi Minh City is the biggest urban agglomeration in Vietnam with an estimated population of 5 million people. Cagayan de Oro in Southern Philippines experienced a rapid economic growth in the past years. The signature of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Muslim rebels in 1996, ending 26 years of civil war, is expected to bring in more investments to Mindanao triggering an even faster economic development which subsequently will attract more people from the rural areas into the cities. Vientiane in Laos has a population of about 500,000 which is likely to increase rapidly after a further political and economical opening of the country. All these cities are expected to boom or are already booming besetting them with nearly insurmountable problems:

Many vegetable production systems can be considered as anthropomorphic production environments (RICHTER et al., 1995). Vegetables are grown at many elevations, from sea level to highlands, in almost every kind of soil, under many water regimes from rainfed to nearly waterlogged to fully irrigated and many situations in between. They are often grown in niches or patches, places often more related to market and population centers than to a given agro-ecological zone. Growing vegetables is particularly suited for small farmers and their families because they can best meet the special cultivation requirements. Vegetables have a relatively short growing period, possess a high land productivity, are highly labor intensive, and fit well as rotation crops in traditional agricultural production systems. Compared with the staple foods of corn and rice, most of the vegetable varieties obtain a higher market value (WESTERMANN, 1995). Farmers, however, need to be encouraged to move to new and more profitable crops. Additionally, careful management of the natural resources soil and water is a necessity or the amount of usable land will continue to decrease.

The consumption of vegetables is far from being sufficient in almost all developing countries. The FAO recommends at least 200 g vegetables per person a day corresponding to 73 kg per year to ensure an adequate micronutrient supply (GURA, 1995). According to the Agricultural Promotion Center (APC) in Tagbilaran, Bohol (Philippines), the average vegetable consumption of the lower income class in the Philippines is estimated to be about 13 kg per capita a year only (personal communication Dr. Lewke, 1996). Hard data are scarce regarding to vegetable consumption. Micronutrient deficiencies, however, are better documented. Two billion people, mostly women and children, are deficient in one or more micronutrients (FAO/WHO, 1992). Vegetables are a major and efficient source of micronutrients considering both per unit of land occupied and per unit production cost compared to other crops (AVRDC, 1996). The importance of urban and periurban vegetable production to improve vitamin and micronutrient supply, especially for the urban poor, is recognized by international policy-makers (FAO, 1996; RICHTER et al., 1995).

Production of vegetables in the tropics is particularly influenced by the seasonality of the weather conditions. During rainy season, problems arise with the prolonged duration of wetted leaf surface promoting the occurrence of bacterial and fungal diseases. Persistent cloudiness results in higher night temperatures with negative effects on the fruit set of solanaceous crops and legumes, as well as on the head forming of cabbage and lettuce. Since most of the vegetable varieties are very sensitive to waterlogged conditions, costly cultivation technologies such as high bed systems that improve the hydraulic conditions of soils are needed (KLEINHENZ et al., 1995).

During dry season, lower night temperatures and a reduced risk for leaf diseases provide better conditions for vegetable production. Two constraints, however, remain:

Materials And Methods

Through analysis of the economic, sociological, and anthropological situation of urban and periurban communities and small and medium-sized farm enterprises (SMEs) in these cities the different factors and constraints affecting and limiting the potential for vegetable production by SMEs will be evaluated and prioritized. Research institutes from the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos, assisted by partners from Germany and France, will introduce respectively and develop production technologies that fit the socio-economic and anthropological situation in the urban communities.

This will be in particular

production of organic fertilizer from city waste and its application on vegetable cultivars,

suitable plant protection methods using beneficial organisms, bio-pesticides, and aromatic plants as insect repellants,

appropriate water management technologies for dry and rainy season, particularly use of drip irrigation and high bed systems.

A private Philippine plant breeding company will contribute seeds of the following crops which are adapted to the climate of the tropical lowland and have resistance or tolerance to the prevalent diseases:

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), sweet pepper (Capsicum annum), eggplant (Solanum melongena), bush bean (Vigna sesquipedalis), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), vegetable soybean (Glycine max), head cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata), cauliflower (Bassica oleracea var. botrytis), and papaya (Carica papaya).

These vegetable cultivars will be evaluated at the different project sites. Seed collection and breeding will be done to further increase the quality of the plant germplasm.

Expected Results

The general objective of the project is to facilitate small and medium sized enterprises in South-East Asia with access to the market by developing socially, economically and ecologically sustainable vegetable production systems.

The project will further contribute to

Participating Institutes

The project is funded by the INCO-DC program of the European Commission (No. IC18-CT97-0184) and jointly carried out by the following institutions:


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Revised Friday, April 13, 2000

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture