Capacity Development Portal
Good Practices

Rural livelihoods and food security

  1. Farmer field schools
  2. Micro-gardens
  3. Livelihood Diversification and enterprise development: improving small farmer livelihoods
  4. The Livelihoods Support Programme: Bringing people-centered approaches and livelihoods at work in FAO
  5. Introducing a Livelihoods Approach in Emergencies

Using new techniques to grow food in new urban environments, support communities and build nutritional awareness

What problem did it address, where?

One way of addressing food security in poor neighbourhoods in densely populated areas is through programmes of "micro-gardening" - small scale intensive cultivation of horticultural crops in an urban environment, often using soil-less substrates. Micro-gardens can produce for self consumption and also for sale locally. The approach has been used successfully in Cairo and Caracas, among other locations. In the case of Caracas, 10,000 families are estimated to benefit from the practice which can be used to supply leafy vegetables, cabbage, pumpkin, tomatoes, eggplants. The approach of cultivating using soil-less substrates was also applied following the South East Asian Tsunami to make up for salt-affected land in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.


Where a soil-less substrate is used, a typical example would be vegetables grown in a mixture of rice hulls, peanut shells and clay pellets, held in a shallow plastic-lined tray on legs, to which a nutrient solution must be added on a daily basis. Other examples have included cultivation of reclaimed land between large scale housing developments, although care must be taken in these cases to check contamination levels of the vegetables produced on a regular basis. Pest control is typically achieved by planting of herbs such as basil, parsley and spearmint, which naturally repel insects, next to the lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables.

To be successful the approach initially requires the funding of an effective local training and demonstration centre. Other success factors are the local availability of inputs for micro-gardens (seeds, substrate, fertiliser, etc). For the approach to be sustainable after the end of the project, there must be local companies active in this sector. Experience has shown that the creation of a local technical help desk is also an important factor in the success of a micro-garden programme. Another factor is dialogue and partnership with locally active NGOs, growers' associations, etc.

Where next?

The approach is applicable in other cities. It has also been used successfully in humanitarian emergencies to support nutritional needs of displaced persons.

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