Urban Agriculture Notes

City Farmer: Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

(with special reference to Africa)


3.2 Expansion of Urban Agriculture Outside Asia

3.2.1 Nairobi - Kenya

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

Recent studies indicate the growth of the urban informal sector (UIS), but also the growing contribution of farming to both informal and formal urban employment in Africa. ILO statistics for 17 African countries show that in 1989 the majority of the urban labour force was being employed by the urban informal sector. During the 1980-5 period, the UIS grew much faster than the formal sector, employing twice as many people and creating 12 times as many new jobs as the formal sector. Formal market contractions during the 1985-7 period probably have further increased, since then, the lead of the UIS (House et al., 1993).

In Kenya in particular, 1986 data from the Central Bureau of Statistics reveal that 17.5% of self-employed workers and unpaid family workers and 3.5% of paid employees in urban areas worked in agriculture and forestry (House et al., 1993: 1207). Both the numbers of self-employed and unpaid workers and their dependence on farming are probably larger than recorded by the Bureau. A breakdown of whether agriculture and forestry was urban or rural was not provided, but it can be assumed that most workers cannot afford to farm at great distances from their city residence. In cities, agriculture and forestry are the second largest of eight occupational categories (after sales workers), among urban based self-employed and unpaid family workers. Agriculture was also the second largest of nine economic activities listed, among self-employed and paid employees, absorbing 24.4% of Nairobi's and 33.6% of urban Kenya's formal sector jobs (based on Ritter and Robicheau's 1988 samples of 216 households and 1,100 cases respectively, cited by House et al., 1993: 1208). Furthermore, agriculture provided the highest self-employment earnings in small-scale enterprises in Nairobi and the third highest earnings in all of urban Kenya (House et all, 1993: 1209).

Binns (1994: 115, 122-123) notes that, while tropical Africa only had three cities with more than half a million people, twenty years later there were no fewer than 28 cities of that size, including 7 with over one million inhabitants. He notes that peri-urban areas are often zones of intensive market-oriented food production and he stresses that urban and rural development should not be treated in isolation one from the other. Reports available from capital cities of western and eastern Africa concur that UA is not a transitional or temporary activity.

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revised, June 12,1995

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