On a visit to Tegucigalpa, I went to one of the city’s poorest informal settlements to see an FAO project that was training women to grow food crops in their backyards. As we climbed slopes lush with cassava, maize and cabbages, they told me how the gardens had changed their lives – by providing their families with fresh, nutritious food and helping them to earn extra income selling surpluses.
I met urban farmers like them on the outskirts of San Salvador, where FAO has helped the Government set up a centre to teach women ecological farming techniques adapted to small spaces. In Managua, I saw prolific gardens of tomatoes, sweet peppers and spinach irrigated by an ingenious system of recycled plastic bottles. In Havana, I visited a farm just outside the city that produces 300 tonnes of vegetables a year, with no chemical inputs.
In all of those cities, common people are leading a quiet revolution known as “urban and peri-urban agriculture”, or UPA. In recent years, FAO has strongly supported the development of UPA in Latin America and the Caribbean, in cities from Port-au-Prince to El Alto on the Bolivian altiplano, through initiatives that involved national governments, city administrations, civil society and non-governmental organizations. That groundwork has been rewarded with widespread recognition – highlighted in this report – of the important role of urban and peri-urban agriculture in sustainable urban development.
The report presents urban and peri-urban agriculture in 23 countries and 10 cities. It shows that UPA is crucial to the food and nutrition security of poor households in many cities of the region, supplies urban dwellers with fresh, high-value “local food”, generates employment, creates greenbelts that improve the quality of urban life, and stimulates local economic development.
What’s more, when facilitated by government, integrated into city and regional planning, and supported by action to promote sustainable production, improve food delivery, and ensure food quality and safety, UPA is a key component of robust and resilient urban food systems. For example, a growing number of cities in the region are linking family farmers in peri-urban and adjoining rural areas to their food banks, school meals and other food and nutrition security programmes, contributing to the livelihoods and well-being of both the rural and urban poor.
The food producers of Tegucigalpa, San Salvador, Managua and Havana, and other common citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean, are helping to build the greener, more resilient and sustainable cities of the future.
José Graziano da Silva
Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations