Urban Agriculture Notes

City Farmer: Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

(with special reference to Africa)


4.5 Urban Agriculture Shouldering Cities' Food Self-Reliance

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

Clearly, UA is already contributing considerably to the food self-reliance of many major cities. Food self-reliance is not self-sufficiency but it can go a long way toward reducing the food insecurity of vulnerable groups. No one expects UA to satisfy most of the urban demand for cereals and tubers; these products can be easily stored and transported, with limited losses, from rural areas. What is striking and must be recognized is that UA, with little support, already supplies significant share of cities food needs. In the USA, the Department of Agriculture statistics show that one third of the country's agricultural output comes from urban/metropolitan areas (Ratta and Smit, 1993: 26; Smit and Nasr, 1992: 142).

In Asia, Singapore is relatively self-sufficient in pork, poultry, and eggs, and grows 25% of all vegetables its population consumes (Yeung, 1985: 22). In the early 1980s, on 10% of its total area, Hong Kong was producing 15% of the pork, 45% of the fresh vegetables, and 68% of live chickens it consumed (Wade, 1981, cited by Yeung, 1985: 19). Shanghai's neichiao (inner zone) provides 76% of the vegetables consumed in the city, with only 16% of the cultivated land devoted to this crop (Yeung, 1985: 12). Within their municipal boundaries, six large Chinese cities grew 85% of their vegetables requirements (Skinner, 1981: 215 280, cited by Yeung 1985: 8 9), with relatively small waste and waste-water problems and budgets (Smit and Nasr 1992). Karachi produced 50% of its fresh vegetables (Smit, 1980, cited by Yeung, 1985: 9). Metro Calcutta's 4,500 ha of fish-stocked wetlands produced 10% or more of its daily fish consumption (Panjwani 1985: 35). In Kathmandu, 30% of the fruit and vegetable needs are met by household food production alone (Wade, 1987: 4). Some Latin American metropolises grow 30% of the vegetables they consume (Heimlich, 1989, cited by Sawio, 1993: 116).

In Africa, a single cooperative in Addis Ababa (in 1983) supplied 6% of cabbage, 14% of beetroots, 17% of carrots, and 63% of the Swiss chard consumed in the city (Egziabher, 1994: 98). In Kampala about 20% of the staple foods consumed within the 5 km radius of the city centre were produced within that same area, the percentage probably being higher in the other less built-up municipal areas. Statistics indicate that Kampala produces 70% of all poultry products it consumes (Maxwell, 1994: 49). Some cities even manage to export to other centres Singapore exports eggs, chickens, and orchids, Shanghai exports grains and vegetables (Yeung, 1985: 14, 22); chicken broilers are exported from Bangkok to Tokyo, and fresh fruits from Abidjan to Paris (DGIP/UNDP 1992: 4).

International development policies nurturing rural urban dichotomies have been starving cities. Beyond industrialization programs which, in the 1960s, disregarded the rural areas on one hand, and the 1970s and 1980s saw agricultural programs which ignored urbanization, more balanced development approaches are now needed. Urban agriculture provides us good reasons for better exploiting rural urban linkages; fittingly, a recent book on the urban rural interface in Africa dedicated a full section to UA (Baker and Pedersen, 1992). The comparative advantages which rural and urban areas must be exploited to meet large cities growing needs for affordable and reliable supplies of sufficient and nutritious food. In the process, a number of related economic, social, gender, environmental and political issues can be addressed more comprehensively.

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revised, June 12,1995

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