Growing Greener Cities (GGC) is FAO's initiative to support urban and peri-urban horticulture. Greener Cities provide a framework for increased food and nutrition security, creating opportunities for employment for smallholder farmers, women and youth. The approach promotes the sustainable use of natural resources, while providing a platform for economic and community development, building on linkages between on linkages between urban and periurban (including rural) communities and operators.
Main responsible entity
2000 - present
Multidonor (Belgium, FAO-TCP, Italy, France, African Solidarity Fund)
Global, with specific activities in DR Congo, Burundi, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Bolivia, Namibia, Mozambique, Egypt, Guinea, Niger, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Chad, Cabo Verde
TITLE : GROWING GREENER CITIES
Current urbanization trends create market opportunities, as urban populations rely on steady and reliable sources of agricultural produce to supply their food needs. Horticultural crops, which can be produced within the urban limits as well as in periurban and rural areas, are particularly suitable to create opportunities to link urban, periurban and rural producers with urban markets.
Urbanization in low-income countries is accompanied by high levels of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. Worldwide, an estimated one billion people live in crowded slums, without access to basic health, water and sanitation services. Around 30 percent of the developing world's urban population - 770 million people - are unemployed or "working poor", with incomes below official poverty lines.
Those urban poor spend most of their income just to feed themselves. Yet their children suffer levels of malnutrition that are often as high as those found in rural areas. To survive, millions of slum dwellers have resorted to growing their own food on every piece of available land: in backyards, along rivers, roads and railways, and under power lines.
The growth of urban slums outpaces urban growth by a wide margin. By 2020, the proportion of the urban population living in poverty could reach 45 percent, or 1.4 billion people. By then, 85 percent of poor people in Latin America, and almost half of those in Africa and Asia, will be concentrated in towns and cities.
Urban and peri-urban horticulture (UPH) or the cultivation of a wide range of crops - including fruit, vegetables, roots, tubers and ornamental plants - within cities and in the surrounding areas has emerged as the core sector of the effective development of greener cities.
Cities and their surroundings are indeed places of opportunity - for economies of scale, employment and improved living standards, even for the poorest city-dwellers. Aiming at “Green Cities” is a recent trend in urban development, both in the North and in the South. The core principles of greener cities can guide urban development that contributes to food and nutrition security, decent work and income, a clean environment and good governance for all citizens.
Through multidisciplinary projects, FAO has helped governments and city administrations to optimize policies, institutional frameworks and support services for UPH, and to improve horticultural production systems. It has promoted irrigated commercial market gardening on urban and periurban peripheries, simple microgardens in slum areas, and green rooftops in densely populated city centres. UPH and GGC have recently gained momentum in the context of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, already undersigned by 135 Mayors of cities from the north and the south and the implementation of city-to-city and south-south cooperation opportunities.
Based on experiences gained in the field, FAO’s “Growing Greener Cities” initiative proposes a multisector framework for action in five points to overcome constraints, create local ownership and enhance the economic, social and environmental benefits of the initiative.
Key characteristics of the experience/process
1. Ensure political and institutional commitment
GGC assists governments in framing measures to promote UPH development as part of national food and nutrition security strategies and advises city authorities on integrating horticulture into urban master development plans. It supports the establishment of GGC units within central and decentralized government structures and facilitates related capacity building.
2. Secure land and water for horticulture
Political and institutional support are needed to enable the legal measures required to secure land for UPH, especially market gardening. GGC encourages planners to demarcate and protect peri-urban zones for horticulture or combine UPH with compatible uses, such as green belts.
3. Ensure product quality and safety while protecting the environment
GGC promotes the adoption of good agriculture practices (GAP). The principles of sustainable intensification and diversification of horticultural production are disseminated through participatory training and extension, e.g through Farmer Field schools introducing small-scale growers to Integrated Production and Protection Management and to improved cultivars and cropping practices adapted to local conditions.
4. Ensure ownership and active participation by all stakeholders in the UPH value chain
GGC fosters the professionalization of the value chain, by providing training to stakeholders at different levels. It helps small-scale growers by securing access to training, tools and inputs - especially quality seed and planting materials - and to micro-credit. It fosters growers to form producer associations and facilitates linkages with extension, research, city administrators, private supply services and NGOs.
5. Secure access to markets
GGC promotes the establishment of neighborhood market facilities and practices to facilitate the availability and access to fresh horticulture produce for the urban population at large. It also entails the exploration of innovative channels to consumers, such as farmers' markets and supply contracts with restaurants and supermarkets, public information campaigns, labelling of produce. Niche markets for herbs, spices and organic produce are another profitable alternative to expand market demand and foster balanced diets, GGC engages in the promotion of fruit and vegetable consumption, which is part of the PROFAV initiative in partnership with WHO. In this context, GGC 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.
UPH field activities are mainly implemented through 4 modalities according to the space available: (i) periurban garden schemes and community orchards; (ii) home and backyard gardens and (iii) microgardens on balconies, rooftops and in patios in the more densely populated areas, including urban slum areas, where only little space and no agriculture land is available, (iv) city-region opportunities to produce and supply the city, concentrating on processed and less perishable fruits and vegetables.
Growing Greener Cities initiative is consistent with the UN Decade of action for Nutrition and the Rome Declaration on Nutrition adopted during the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), specifically with recommendations 9 (on strengthening local food production and processing by smallholders, family farmers, giving special attention to women and youth) and 10 (on the promotion of the production of fruits and vegetables).
Through the promotion of high value and highly nutritious agricultural produce such as fruits and vegetables, GGC initiative contributes to SDG 1 (on poverty), SDG 2 (on hunger and malnutrition), SDG 3 (on healthy lives). Within the FAO strategic framework, GGC contributes to SO 1 (hunger and malnutrition), SO2 (on sustainable agriculture), SO4 (on inclusive food systems).
Key actors involved and their role
Key beneficiaries arë:
Urban and Periurban smallholder farmers. Urban and periurban horticulture turns out to be particularly appealing to urban women. GGC promotes youth employment, as opportunities for young entrepreneurial farmers are created along the whole value chain.
Key facilitating actors are:
Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Education and Health. Their role is to integrate GGC in policy documents and to create the institutional context to ensure sustainable development of UPH within the national food and nutrition strategies.
Decentralized governments at municipal and local level to ensure the integration and adoption of UPH in the city development plans and safeguard suitable and water resources for its implementation.
Extension, civil society and NGO’s to provide training, provide input supply and foment the distribution and marketing
Key changes observed with regards to food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture and food systems
Over the past decade, governments in 20 countries have sought FAO's assistance in removing barriers and providing incentives, inputs and training to low-income "city farmers", from the burgeoning metropolises of West and Central Africa to the low-income barrios of Managua, Caracas and Bogotá.
Through multidisciplinary projects, FAO has helped governments and city administrations to optimize policies, institutional frameworks and support services for UPH, and to improve horticultural production systems. It has promoted irrigated commercial market gardening on urban peripheries, simple microgarden systems in slum areas, and green rooftops in densely populated city centres.
The FAO programme, and similar initiatives by partner organizations, have demonstrated how horticulture helps empower the urban poor, and contributes to their food security and nutrition. But it can also help grow greener cities that are better able to cope with social and environmental challenges, from slum improvement and management of urban wastes to job creation and community development.
Often UPH goes unrecognized in agricultural policies and urban planning. Growers in that case squat on empty land operate without permits from municipal authorities or on land unsuitable for agricultural production. This also implicates absence of technical support, low implication of the private sector, and absence of quality standards and labeling.
The FAO programme, and similar initiatives by partner organizations, have demonstrated how horticulture helps empower the urban poor, and contributes to their food security and nutrition. But it can also help grow greener cities that are better able to cope with social and environmental challenges, from slum improvement and management of urban wastes to job creation and community development and strengthen the resilience against climate change.