Urban Agriculture Notes

City Farmer: Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

(with special reference to Africa)


3.3 Local Authorities' Changing Attitudes Toward City Farming

3.3.3 Africa

by Luc J.A. Mougeot
© Copyright 1994
International Development Research Centre

While gardening and some animal husbandry have been permitted on private plots since colonial times, official initiatives have been minimal for incorporating UA to low-income housing plans, the management of institutional and open public space, as well as citywide zoning. What Lee-Smith and Memon (1994: 71) say of Kenya may well apply to other East and Southern African countries: Kenyan urban centres were gazetted as townships under the Townships Ordinance of 1903, to function as centres of colonial authority and rule, over which strict sanitary control could be maintained. Boundaries were carefully defined to reduce existing areas of subsistence farming and settlement; upper-income residential districts were laid out according to the garden-city model, often protected from less salubrious land uses by buffer zones of public open space. Permanent settlement of indigenous Africans was proscribed and carefully policed.

However, like post-Russian nationalist China, a growing number of newly independent African countries are departing from colonial approaches to urban planning. The new national capitals of Cite d' Ivoire, Malawi, and Tanzania have been planned to accommodate UA and their authorities are encouraging it (DGIP/UNDP 1992: 2, 25). As for major existing urban centres, local governments have commissioned special sectoral studies on urban agriculture as part of master planning processes, in Maseru, Lesotho (Greenhow, 1994: 2), Kampala, Uganda (NEIC, 1994) and Dar es Salaam (DSM/ARDHI, 1992). In contrast with its 1967 version, Kinshasa's 1975 master plan did set aside areas for horticulture in the east, central, and southwest sections of this multimillion-people city (Pain 1985: 34).

Authorities in some intermediate size cities have also innovated. Tanzanian municipalities have experimented with zones for UA in recent years. While breaches to regulatory constraints on public land have led to harassment in Nairobi and Kisumu, councils in Kenyan other cities have been innovative and pro-active, supporting crop irrigation in Isiolo, providing extension services in Kitui, or experimenting with allotments for food crops in Kitale (Lee-Smith and Memon, 1994: 83). In Nigeria and Zaire as in China, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines urban farmers have been protected and encouraged through land use regulations and tax concessions (Diallo 1993; Lado 1990: 257).

In Daloa, Cite d' Ivoire (population 123,000 in 1988), peri- and intra-urban agriculture grew tremendously between 1954 and 1988, promoted successively by Chinese immigrants, native ethnic minorities, and local authorities. One official project had 456 rice growers in 1988 on government-improved and acquired bottomland. A 1989 map shows 55 poultry farms located within and on the edge of the built-up area, with 13 pig farms and 110 fish ponds in the city s immediate vicinity. Della (1991) also surveyed Daloa s intra-urban agriculture: some 121 part- and full-time producers tended 250 ha of well- and tank-irrigated rice paddies and native and introduced vegetable crops on marshland within the built-up area; these plots supply various governmental and public agencies. On the urban fringe, agriculture has adjusted to rapid city growth, with labour-demanding lowland cropping expanding from 52 to 624 ha between 1954 and 1983.

In some major cities the changes in official attitudes have been remarkable. In Harare, Zimbabwe, bylaw enforcement remains among the most stringent observed in East and Southern Africa. Yet, official attitudes towards UA have progressed considerably over the last decade, as shown by Mbiba (1994: 194-200). Authorities were originally opposed to any off-plot UA and this was reflected in information campaigns prohibiting felling and cropping at all cost. Tree-planting programs, the demarcation and pegging of cultivable areas, and the policing of UA by a municipal security unit in high-density areas were implemented to discourage cultivation. A Greater Harare Illegal Cultivation Committee was later set up by the City Council, the aggressiveness of which began to worry ministerial authorities. Pressed by the Ministry of Local Government and Town Planning, the Harare City Council in the early 1980s finally issued a more accommodating policy: UA could now take place on Council land leased out by the Council to producers in cooperatives. However, the slashing of crops on other public land proceeded, until major confrontations prompted a review, resulting in the suspension, of crop slashing in 1992 and ever since.

A local stakeholders' workshop in Harare in early 1994 (ENDA-ZB, 1994b) further identified critical issues which need to be better documented in order to guide a better management of UA in Harare. In cooperation with the Ministry of Local Government and the Department of Housing and Community Services, ENDA-Zimbabwe conducted a baseline survey of open-space UA in Greater Harare; it now plans to research more specific UA management issues. In 1989 in Harare, 246 out of 298 cooperatives managed by the City Council's Department of Housing and Community Services (DHCS) in 1989 were agricultural cooperatives, 16 in food-catering, distributed in six major areas, among which was the peri-downtown sector of Highfield Glenview Waterfalls. A number of chicken cooperatives were active. The DHCS also managed some 97 women's clubs with about 2,700 members and four youth groups were classified under agriculture. With its activities in housing, home industries, youth and women's clubs, child development, health and nutrition, transportation, markets, and recreation, the DHCS of Harare City Council could promote UA in a highly integrated fashion, with multiple benefits to a wide range of population groups and economic sectors.

Thus, in several African countries, ministries of local governmental affairs and agriculture, municipal health and nutrition agencies, associations of urban municipalities, and elected urban-district councillors have become more tolerant, if not supportive, of city farming recently.

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revised, June 12,1995

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