Building a sustainable UPH sector provides a laboratory for innovative approaches to urban development, and examples of good governance in action
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme says the "unmanageability" of urban areas is due more to failures of governance and urban planning than city size. It calls for action to strengthen the capacity of local government to plan for future growth, and for integrated governance that improves coordination among public services at all levels.
In many countries, UPH goes unrecognized in agricultural policies and urban planning. Growers often operate without permits from municipal authorities, or on land granted under customary law. Since it is officially "invisible", the sector receives no public assistance or oversight. Growers with insecure title to their plots and limited or no access to inputs and extension services have little incentive to invest in increased production.
FAO's approach to urban and peri-urban horticulture underscores the need to transform UPH into a fully acknowledged commercial and professional activity, integrated into national agricultural development strategies, food and nutrition programmes, and urban planning and resource management.
In Latin America, Argentina, Brazil and Cuba have adopted national plans and policies to actively promote UPH. Brazil's Ministry for Social Development and Combating Hunger sets urban agriculture guidelines. In Egypt, FAO helped the government launch a "Green food from green roofs" programme that encouraged Cairo residents to grow their own vegetables in beds of rice husks, sand and peat moss.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has created an effective institutional structure for national UPH development. Municipal committees chaired by city mayors manage the process of regularizing titles to land for horticulture and integrating UPH into urban planning, while the country's national UPH support service provides technical advice to growers through a network of offices in 11 provincial capitals.
Formal, government-recognized programmes for urban agriculture now also exist in most cities of South Africa. The municipality of Cape Town supplies community gardening groups with "start-up kits" - tools, seeds and compost - and access to skills training. Nairobi and Accra have both created municipal agricultural departments. In Hanoi, a range of public services, including 100 plant protection and extension staff, support the city's thriving urban agriculture sector.
UPH development fosters closer collaboration among government and municipal departments. In Windhoek, FAO worked with the ministries for youth, local government and gender equality on a project for young unemployed. In Kampala, specialists in health, agriculture and town planning worked together in framing new ordinances that removed old barriers to "city farming".
As part of Bolivia's national poverty reduction strategy, the municipality of El Alto, near La Paz, launched a "green plan" which assigned 3 700 ha for parks, gardens and horticulture, and created a UPH unit within the municipality's environment department. In Rwanda, the city of Kigali has sought FAO advice on measures aimed at integrating UPH into the city's master development plan.