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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.
The below contribution is on HORTIVAR, FAO's database on the performance of horticultural cultivars around the world. HORTIVAR is also a platform for exchange of know-how among scientists and a tool to safeguard, retrieve and exchange information related to horticulture. Horticultural crops are particularly well suited within rural-urban context, given the availability of land and labour on the one side, and the proximity of a market on the other.
Main responsible entity
2000 - present
Multidonor (Belgium, South Korea); with additional contributions through budget resources from FAO-TCP and other GCP and UTF and Africa Solidarity Trust Fund projects for training on the use of Hortivar in selected countries,
Global. At date 118 countries have shared information, which has been uploaded in HORTIVAR.
TITLE : HORTIVAR
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, city region and rural areas are particularly interesting in this regards, in view of their perishable nature and the high and geographically concentrated demand. More than 50% of the world population presently lives in cities, and this number is expected to increase to 66% by 2050. Moreover, UN Habitat estimates that around 45% of the urban population in lower income countries lives in slums.
Horticultural crops are much diversified and require specific knowledge to manage the crop cycles. Easy access to information is critical for farmers to determine which species, varieties and associated cultural practices are most suitable for their agro-ecological zones.
Specifically with occurring climate change in agro-ecological zones, farmers are more in need than ever to acquire information on recommended cultivars for their changing environment.
The need was often felt by horticultural practitioners in the field for a central reference system to collect, store and facilitate access to information on the performances of horticultural cultivars within specific agro-ecological conditions, production systems, crop management practices, the occurrence of pests and diseases, urban markets and user requirements.
HORTIVAR was designed to address this need, to be a powerful, geo-referenced database on management and performance of horticulture cultivars (fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers, herbs and condiments, ornamentals and mushrooms) in different agro-climatic environments. It was developed and is managed by FAO, with the core financial support of the Kingdom of Belgium and, more recently, of the Republic of Korea.
The database is meant to help farmers’ access information on the performance of horticulture species and cultivars to support their choice and decision of growing these in their environment.
By being georeferenced and agro-climate specific, it is a tool that helps to adapt to climate change through the interpretation of isopotential land areas.
It allows speeding up emergency interventions in post disaster situation to help and restore field productivity with adapted species and cultivars and quick access to seed sources.
HORTIVAR is a tool to safeguard and retrieve data related to horticultural cultivars, as well as a platform for information exchange among producers, academics, research centres, seed companies, scientists and other actors in the private or public sector.
The information includes a description of the cultivar characteristics, basic cropping and yield data, nutritional information, as well as information on the climate of the location, and on field operations and cultural practices
The database is at the heart of a platform for horticulture knowledge management and exchange. It is a template for educational purposes and a gateway to horticulture knowledge/statistics.
Access and use of HORTIVAR is free of charge. Producers, academics, research centres, seed companies, scientists and other actors in the private or public sector are the direct beneficiaries of the Database.
By bringing the information on the performance of horticultural cultivars within access of its worldwide network of horticulturalists, including farmers, HORTIVAR database and network contribute to three FAO’s Strategic Objectives (1, 2, 3) as well as they lead horticulture in reaching five Sustainable Development Goals (1, 2, 12, 13, 15)
HORTIVAR is a tool that allows promotion of fruits and vegetables for increased availability and consumption, and is thus 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).
Key characteristics of the experience/process
HORTIVAR is an important information, decision making and analysis tool. It is freely accessible at http://www.fao.org/hortivar. The database offers information on:
- Production data – real cultivar field performances, achieved by described growing techniques, and linked to season and location. Details of each crop cycle with related parameters (e.g. climate, irrigation, plant protection).
- Climate data and climate change HORTIVAR allows to retrieve information on the performance of a crop and cultivar corresponding to different agro-ecozone, that match possibly changing local climatic parameters..
- Standard cultivar descriptions and seed sources
Information and cultivar photos can be searched and viewed, sometimes with pictures of the crops and produce. Contact to companies providing seed material is also available for consultation.
- Experts on specific crop, subject – a pool of expertize. Each registered partner sharing information fills a profile page and his/her email contact is available.
- Nutrient composition data - at species level and when available at cultivar level, linking the USDA and other nutritional databases.
- Country and species data profiles – information on all available data for the selected country and/or species is available in the format of tables and graphs
- Soil parametres – linkages to SoilGrids network to obtain soil data for any location based on geo-reference data
Key actors involved and their role
Key actors, which are also beneficiaries are:
Institutional partners: Horticulture research and development institutions; Universities and agriculture colleges, to enter data and share information on horticulture research and production
Field projects to implement field trials and train national staff in field observations and record keeping for registration in HORTIVAR.
Horticulture breeding stations and seed entities : to provide standard cultivar descriptions
Individual partners : To safeguard and share their knowhow
Professors and students : To use HORTIVAR as teaching tool
Gatekeepers: To check the data accuracy and act as referee
FAO: To host the database and keep the software performant and adapted to evolving requirements.
HORTIVAR addresses the needs of producers, public and private sector, seed companies and horticultural research centres for information management related to horticultural crop cultivars while FAO maintains and develops this programme and software and it relies on its members to feed it with information either as individual or as institutional partners. While HORTIVAR is included in FAO’s strategic framework and part of the PWB 2016-2017 work plan (Outcome 2.4/output 2.4.3) it is also strengthened through multi-donor project funds (MTF/GLO/697/MUL), targeting selected interventions.
Key changes observed with regards to food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture and food systems
HORTIVAR is a powerful tool to search for horticulture varieties that are best adapted to the growing conditions at hand. HORTIVAR thus supports horticulturalists :
• chose best adapted species and cultivar by season to improve sustainable crop productivity and income, which in turn helps secure income and reduce poverty. (contributing to SDG 1 and FAO SO3)
• to grow a diversified range of fruits and vegetables, ensuring easier and continuous access to quality food rich in vitamins and essential micro-nutrients which helps to combat chronic malnutrition. (contributing to SDG 3 and FAO SO1)
• select horticultural species and cultivars that have specific characteristics, such as short production cycles, and make them very suitable in view of increasing resilience of farming communities, both before and after occurrence of disasters or shocks. (contributing to FAO SO5)
HORTIVAR provides key information for sustainable crop production intensification. The selection of the most appropriate production practices and technologies allows more efficient use of natural resources and agricultural inputs. (Contributing to SDG 15, FAO SO2)
HORTIVAR is also proving to be a critical information tool in support of Climate Smart Agriculture: varieties and species that are better adapted to drought, saline soils, or higher temperatures can be identified, taking into account the current changing patterns in climate.
Hortivar has been validated by the International Society for Horticulture Science (ISHS) as a unique tool to capture and exchange information on the performances of horticulture cultivars worldwide. In a world of rapidly evolving software technology, HORTIVAR needs to be reprogrammed at intervals to remain fast and competitive. Easy access of data and information has been a constraint as long as computers and reliable connections were not available. The easy and access of data could still be improved by developing smart phone and tablet applications. The use of HORTIVAR could be further enhanced by developing e-learning modules.
Since use of HORTIVAR requires certain capacities, the HORTIVAR service desk offers advisory support to national and regional institutions and entities as well as to individual HORTIVAR partners and users on request. Funds need to be raised to allow the HORTIVAR desk to perform its different duties which are outlined in the initial MTF/GLO/697/MUL project. In view of the increasing demand, HORTIVAR has also to be upgraded with new features such as analytical reports, intended to speed up the data retrieval.
Apart from the HORTIVAR desk, funds are needed to continue making Hortivar use available free of charge to all partners and to provide a tool for better information management. Hortivar as an online website and software needs a continuous maintenance and improvements to its functions and make it available in different languages.
Such funds can originate either from direct donor contributions in support of FAO’s Strategic framework (FMM), either from other project budgets that have financial resources for training, communication and information sharing.
HORTIVAR has become a reference information source for a broad range of users. It is a unique tool that captures factual and actual information on horticulture crop cultivars, which are site and time specific. It has become a standard system data-safe for horticulture research institutions to keep track of the data recorded on the performances of horticulture crops. Maintaining and active help-desk service is essential to keep HORTIVAR a lively information exchange tool HORTIVAR has proven to also be a network and resource base of crop specialists. Early 2016, HORTIVAR contains over 90.000 data entry sets on horticultural crop cultivars performances, covering over 1.000 species and more than 28.000 cultivars. Over 1.400 registered partners have contributed with data. HORTIVAR is not a static programme as it is adjusted regularly to meet the requirements of its users, and new data are added constantly.