FAO's Programme for Urban and Peri-urban Horticulture has adopted a five-point approach to the sustainable development of the sector
1. Ensure political and institutional commitment
Although urban and peri-urban horticulture (UPH) is a reality in most developing cities, it often goes unrecognized in agricultural policies and urban planning. The essential first step towards sustainable management of urban and peri-urban horticulture is the official recognition of its positive role in urban development, particularly in the nutrition and livelihoods of the urban poor. FAO has been instrumental in raising awareness of UPH among policy makers in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. It assists governments in framing measures to promote UPH development as part of national food security strategies, and advises city authorities on integrating horticulture into urban master development plans.
2. Secure land and water for horticulture
Political and institutional support facilitates the legal measures needed to secure land for UPH, especially market gardening. Often, the process begins by registering informal groups of growers as associations. Once the land and its users have been identified, city authorities process their requests for temporary permits or longterm leases. FAO encourages planners to demarcate peri-urban zones for horticulture or combine UPH with compatible uses, such as green belts. In urban areas, it supports programmes for household and community gardens. FAO projects promote rooftop collection systems to harvest rainwater, and drip irrigation to reduce water consumption. See also Food for the cities: Land tenure.
3. Ensure product quality while protecting the environment
FAO uses Farmer Field Schools to promote intensification and diversification of horticultural production. Field schools introduce smallscale growers to Integrated Production and Protection Management (which reduces the use of toxic chemicals to control pests and diseases), and to improved cultivars and cropping practices adapted to local conditions. By fostering good agricultural practices, field schools help to build sustainable production systems that are environmentally friendly and ensure the safety and quality of produce. FAO projects encourage the use of organic compost in urban environments and train vegetable growers in the safe recycling of wastewater for irrigation. See also Food for the cities: Environment and health and Water use and reuse for urban agriculture.
4. Ensure participation by all stakeholders in the UPH sector
The primary beneficiaries of FAO interventions in support of commercial UPH development are low-income, small-scale vegetable growers, who have very limited access to the services and inputs needed to increase the quantity and quality of production. Low output and low incomes perpetuate their poverty. FAO fosters the professionalization of small-scale growers by securing access to training, tools and inputs - especially quality seed and planting materials - and to micro-credit. Its projects encourage growers to form producer associations (which help them to reduce their costs along the value chain) and facilitate linkages with extension, research, city administrators, private supply services and development NGOs.
5. Secure new markets for fruit and vegetables
In developing countries, fruit and vegetable intake is far below recommended levels. To promote consumption, FAO supports crop diversification, improvements in storage and processing, public information campaigns, labelling of produce, and the creation of neighbourhood collection points and markets. It encourages growers' associations to explore new channels to consumers, such as farmers' markets and supply contracts with restaurants and supermarkets. Niche markets for herbs, spices and organic produce are another profitable alternative. FAO supports school garden programmes, which provide children with gardening experience and lay the foundations for daily fruit and vegetable consumption at school and at home. See also Food for the cities: Food marketing and distribution.