Urban and peri-urban agriculture 

Today 50 percent of the global population now lives in cities and this is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2050. Such large expansion causes the encroachment of the city into surrounding natural ecosystems and agricultural lands.

Cities are often unable to provide sufficient employment opportunities to their growing populations which leads to a rapid increase in urban poverty rates and food insecurity. These urban poor often lack the money to purchase food or the land to grow it. It is estimated that these individuals spend up to 60 percent of their incomes to buy food. For example, the recent food crisis increased food prices and the global economic downturn reduced employment opportunities and incomes especially within urban areas. Climate change and higher incidences of natural and human-made disasters have also caused disruptions in food-supply chains into cities further increasing food insecurity.

Although cities will continue to largely depend on rural agriculture, urban and peri-urban agriculture is providing significant quantities of food (especially of perishable items) and improving food security of the urban poor. It is estimated that up to 15 percent of the world's food is produced by urban agriculture and 70 percent of urban households in developing countries participate in agricultural activities. Vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, herbs, meat, eggs, milk and even fish are being produced in community gardens, private backyards, schools, hospitals, roof tops, window boxes and vacant public lands (including at the side of roads and rail tracks). This home production can provide up to 60 percent of a families food requirements. This not only greatly improves nutrition it also allows families to spend more of their incomes on other expenses, such as education and health. In addition, urban agriculture also generates micro-enterprises such as the production of compost, food processing and sale.

Micro-Gardens in Dakar

FAO and the Government of Senegal have initiated Micro-Gardens in Dakar in 1999. This initiative has reduced poverty by providing fresh vegetables to poor families, thereby improving their food supply and nutrition. The project also promotes income generation through the sale of production surplus. The project facilitates access to urban and peri-urban horticultural production for city-dwellers who do not have access to farmland, mobilizes human resource in the fields of administration and research, and promotes the use of agricultural waste such as peanut shells and rice chaff. The micro-garden technology has been adopted across all social sectors: poor, wealthy, men, women, young, old and physically handicapped. More than 4,000 families have been trained in micro-garden technology.

The main challenges in the implementation of the project included training and organization of beneficiaries, access to equipment and inputs, and marketing of produce. The micro-gardens benefited from local means and equipment, housed at the Horticultural Development Centre (CDH) of the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA), including an office, laboratory and national reference micro-garden.

In the absence of territorial planning for the allotment of production spaces to micro-gardeners, some city halls, schools and hospitals have made their backyards available for micro-gardeners. The micro-gardens project has also established outlets in all the regional capitals to provide access to alternatives to high-cost chemical fertilizers, including tea manure, manure, and Biogen. Annual yields have increased and costs of inputs reduced through the use of alternative materials and drip irrigation kits promoted by the FAO. The project is collaborating with Italian NGOs in Dakar to establish a specific supply chain mechanism for micro-gardeners' produce to strengthen financial autonomy of the beneficiaries and ensure sustainability of the project. Micro-gardners' produce is promoted via television programmes and advertising; and with the introduction of a certificate of vegetable analysis, established by the Institute of Food Technology (ITA). The goal is to create a label for micro-gardeners' produce. 



Rooftop gardens in Cairo, Egypt

The population explosion and the tendency to build on agricultural land have acted to limit the resources of city families and their access to healthy products. With a little effort and money, rooftops can contribute in improving the families' quality of life and provide them with healthy food and increased income. Although the idea is not new, rooftop gardens in Egypt has only recently been implemented. In the early 1990s at Ain Shams University, a group of agriculture professors developed an initiative of growing organic vegetables to suit densely populated cities of Egypt. The initiative was applied on a small scale until it was officially adopted in 2001 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Terraces, balconies and even civil construction walls have also been utilized. These production methods do not require big investments in capital or long hours of work but allows for the production of a broad variety of vegetables and fruit...more


Further information and examples

The urban producer's resource book: A practical guide for working with Low Income Urban and PeriUrban Producers Organizations provides a useful reference with guidelines and the issues that have to be addressed. Country examples are provided for each issue to show how UPA can be developed in cooperation with a number of stakeholders. Accessed at: www.fao.org/docrep/010/a1177e/a1177e00.htm


last updated:  Wednesday, December 29, 2010