Urban Agriculture, Progress and Prospect: 1975-2005
by Jac Smit (TUAN)


    Small-Scale Horticulture in a Squatter Area of Lusaka, Zambia

    Residents of a squatter settlement near the sewage lagoons in Lusaka, farm the area in and around the squatter settlement to produce some food for consumption. The production is small-scale and informal, using low-quality inputs collected from the market or neighboring areas, and undertaken on public land. Although it is legal to use public land for cultivation in Zambia, using sewage for irrigation is not sanctioned. In this case, however, the effluent from lagoons has been biologically treated in a passive lagoon.

    The farmers produce vegetables such as squash and beans for family consumption. One farmer has expanded his farming activity to produce cash crops such as sugar cane for toddy and bananas, from which he earns a good income. He has shaped fields by hand and uses crop rotation. He composts neighborhood waste for his fields and uses effluent from the sewage lagoon for irrigation.

    Source: Urban Agriculture Network Case File. Contact: Harrington Jere, Human Settlements of Zambia, Lusaka

    Backyard Gardeners Use Biointensive Methods in Maipú, Chile

    Farmers in a low-income settlement in Maipú, Chile, grow a mix of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and microlivestock on small household plots ranging from 10 to 40 square meters. Farming began about ten years ago through the initiative of SODEM, a Maipú-based community development organization, with training provided by CET, a national technical NGO advancing alternative agriculture. Several international agencies, including CODEL, GTZ, and Lutheran World Relief provided support.

    The farmers collect garbage from neighboring residences and compost it for farming input. For most families, farming is a second economic activity; they produce primarily for consumption by family and friends, but a few produce for sale in the market. Some female farmers grow culinary herbs at home and sell them in the local market.

    The original purpose of the project was to improve the food security and nutritional status of residents of low-income neighborhoods. But gradually, farmers expanded their activities: they have planted street trees to improve the neighborhood environment and for collective marketing of fruit. The farmers are now well established; they have created a city park with farming plots as well as recreational space.

    This model of local and national NGO cooperation to promote urban farming is eminently replicable in other countries and cities.

    Source: Urban Agriculture Network Case File. Contact: Camila Montecino, CET, Colina, Chile

    National Support for Small-Scale Urban Farmers: Pro-Huerta, Argentina

    Argentina is one of the few countries to create an integrated national-level agency to promote urban agriculture in the 1990s. INTA (Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuria), SAGP (Secretaria de Agricultura, Ganadaria y Pesca), PFS (Programa Federal de Solidaridad), and SDS (Secretaria de Desarrollo Social) together formed Pro-Huerta in 1990 with Italian bilateral aid.

    Pro-Huerta lists more than 500,000 beneficiaries in 1994 (up from 43,000 in 1991). These half-million Argentineans are supported at 62,000 community, school, and institutional "huertas" producing vegetables, fruit, and small livestock (particularly rabbits). Pro-Huerta reaches these small-scale and home farmers through 1,100 cooperating institutions in 1,800 towns and cities through its thirteen regional offices.

    The objectives of the program are to improve nutrition and food security, promote small-scale in-town production, and advance community participation in solving food-related problems. Its action programs include training trainers; enrolling institutions; providing inputs such as seeds, seedlings and, livestock; and technical assistance in sustainable methods, including organic production.

    Sources: Pro-Huerta Brochure, 1994; Urban Agriculture Network Case File.

    Urban Agriculture in Singapore

    The land-use management of the island nation of Singapore is one of the most effective anywhere. For instance, it has a world-leading public housing system, and it manages its downtown traffic very skillfully. The superior urban management is reflected in its very successful urban agriculture system, which uses both ancient technology and advanced modern techniques adapted to its multiracial society. Singapore farms between the high rises and in its suburbs, and it farms the surrounding seas.

    The Primary Production Department of the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for applied research, extension, training, and supplies for nutritional self-reliance in the island nation. Most of the farmers it caters to, run small operations and have been in business, on average, more than ten years. Singapore has both three-year and ten-year lease agreements with farmers, depending upon the type of crop and the abutting land uses. Rents are related to production, not land value. Among the other innovations is fish-horticulture mixed farming.

    Singapore citizens consume much meat (70 kilograms per capita per annum), and Singapore is fully self-reliant in meat. Singapore also produces 25 percent of the vegetables it consumes. On about 7,000 hectares, Singapore licenses about 10,000 farmers in fish, livestock, and horticulture. However, many householders are unlicensed small-scale producers.

    The Primary Production Department has planned, to an exceptional degree, to recycle wastes into green areas, concentrating on livestock production, vegetable raising, and fish farming. Organic wastes feed both land and sea crops, including seaweed and shrimp. Starting in 1974, mushrooms began to be grown on multistory stacking shelves using composts from agricultural wastes, such as banana leaves and straw.

    Sources: Linda Agerbak, "Agricultural Innovation in the City-State," Asia 2000 (n.d.), pp. 28-29; and Dr. Leong Poo Chow, Annual Report, Agriculture Ministry, Primary Production Division, Singapore (1985).

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