Urban Agriculture Notes

City Farmer: Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

(with special reference to Africa)


4.6 City Farming's Benefits to Urban Households

4.6.2 Nutritional Impact

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

The impact of UA on households nutritional status is still under-researched but the few data available are encouraging and more are being collected. According to a 1981 UNICEF survey of households with children aged 5 or under in 13 low-income districts of Kampala, partial reliance on intra-urban food production largely explained why supplementary feeding aid could be discontinued. This had taken place despite dramatic economic decline during the Amin regime and a war with Tanzania: 24% of households were engaged in farming within the city. The Save the Children Fund (SCF) reports similar findings in its 1987 study of one division in Kampala. (Maxwell, 1993a).

The findings of SCF are also supported by the initial results of a 1993 survey by a team of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). The MISR findings impressed the Kampala City Council's Public Health Office. The 1993 survey found a highly significant difference between farming and nonfarming households in the low- and very low-income groups, with respect to stunting among children under 5 years of age. Areas surveyed coincide with some covered by the World Bank-funded First Urban Project in Kampala. Differences between the nonfarming and farming groups on wasting a shorter-term effect of malnutrition have been observed, although they were not statistically significant (Maxwell, 1993a).

Such results suggest that the poorer a household is, the more the women may be inclined to do some UA to prevent malnutrition. In Nairobi, a 1992 baseline survey commissioned by UNICEF and the Nairobi City Council's Nutrition Section in two low-income sectors found that 21.6% (up to as much as 33.1% in one area) of 250 children sampled were stunted. It found UA was not adequately addressed and recommended that the promotion of UA and marketing of UA produce be seriously reviewed with municipal authorities, so as to make food more accessible and affordable to low-income urban women (Mutiso, 1993).

Conventional strategies for urban food security need to be reassessed in view of UA's potential role: an extensive survey of subsidy programs found that income transfers from food subsidies tend to provide 15 - 25% of the real income of low-income households (von Braun et al., 1993). As documented earlier, this is roughly what (largely unassisted) urban farming seems to be achieving already. UA does this at a much lower cost, probably with more benefits to consumers themselves and, by extension, to the general urban economy.

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revised, June 12,1995

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