Contributions to the Discussion

Contributions September 08 - 15, 2000


From: Fiona Knight []
To: ''

Subject: Urban Agriculture and Food Security Initiatives in Canada: A Survey of Canadian Non-Governmental Organizations

I apologize for the lateness of my submission. Readers may be interested in the following report: Urban Agriculture and Food Security Initiatives in Canada:A Survey of Canadian Non-Governmental Organizations by Jacinda Fairholm, LifeCycles published in March 1999, available at url - details: The report, Urban Agriculture and Food Security Initiatives in Canada: A Survey of Canadian Non- Governmental Organizations, intends to give an overview of existing community-based organizing efforts to create more just and sustainable food systems. Through highlighting the work of many organizations and their networks we hope to make known their activities and also point to areas where there is still need for further research, work and creativity. Submitted by Fiona Knight, food security consultant, Ontario Public Health



From: Egal, Florence (ESNP)
To: '' Cc:
Subject: Ableman Question #5 Sent: 11/09/00 14:51 More on Michael Ableman's questions...

 5) In the U.S. is urban agriculture 13 times more productive per acre in > urban than in its more conventional counterparts? Michael Ableman

My name is Allison Brown. I am a horticulturist who has been working in UPA for over 20 years, primarily in Asia and the USA. Most recently I have been studying local market structures for commercial UPA. Michael Ableman asks whether urban agriculture is 13 times more productive per acre than conventional agriculture in the USA. This question raises some slippery issues and is made more difficult by our not knowing the source of the original statement. I would like to examine briefly the technical problems of evaluating this kind of claim and to provide a caution to advocates of UPA. By "more productive" we must wonder whether the original writer means that UPA yields a higher volume of product per unit of land, or that UPA yields more cash value per unit of land, or that UPA is more efficient than conventional agriculture. MORE YIELD: Too often yields from small, intensively-cultivated plots are extrapolated and then compared to yields from extensive cultivation practised in areas where land holdings are larger. I have even seen the yield of a single tomato plant grown in a pot on a balcony extrapolated in this way. This comparison is not useful as the technologies are different. It is not sensible to grow an acre of tomatoes in individual pots and, even if one did, one could not expect the same results. Yields for intensive and extensive cultivation cannot be directly compared.

MORE VALUE: Too often the cash return per acre in the Market Garden Zone is compared head to head with cash return per acre elsewhere. This is a common tactic of alarmists in the sprawl debate. When examining claims of this sort one must check first that the claim is based on the comparison of the same crops. Sometimes the returns from high-value UPA horticulture production are compared to averaged returns for low-value grains and field crops. Next one must look at the cultivation systems being compared. Returns on investment to intensive and extensive cultivation systems should not be directly compared, although sometimes they may be compared after adjustment. Then one must look at whether the comparison is based on prevailing market price or situation-dependent price. That is, UPA commercial growers realise higher prices because they have access to location-specific marketing channels while rural growers without access to these market channels sell at the prevailing wholesale price, which will be lower. On top of all this, one must examine the exact products being compared. Far more often than people may realise, UPA crops might not be commercially grown in other zones, making product-to-product price comparisons impossible. Quality factors are different for those products traded as commodities in the wholesale system and those that are not. Without calculating the quality premium, prices cannot be directly compared. EFFICIENCY: Efficiency calculations must include labour costs as well as appropriate measures of yield and price. Too often efficiency claims for smallholder and subsistence production ignore the cost of family labour. That is, the value of the time spent in cultivating the home garden is considered to be without economic value because it is "leisure" time. This attitude has been very common in gardening programs undertaken by development agencies. The bitter truth, which has been documented for a century, is that gardening is not an economically efficient use of time. This is not to say that gardening is not beneficial or cannot provide economic benefits or that it is not the preferred occupation of some people, but only that we must be very careful when we advocate gardening as an economically advantageous activity. If a person has a paid job, working at that job is always a more profitable use of time than gardening. Begin with the assumption of a minimum wage job. Assume that gardening takes at minimum 3-4 hours a week and that plants take several months of tending before they produce. The cost of a tomato from the garden is many times higher than the price in the shop. One can argue that even the most lowly paid job returns more per hour than gardening. While it is true that home food production allows limited cash resources to be used elsewhere, paid employment provides cash and provides it more quickly. Of course, few of us can arrange to be paid for all of the hours in the day and people without jobs are not paid at all. We must cook, eat, sleep, take care of children, do laundry and socialise with family and neighbours. We travel to our jobs, our parents' house, the school and other places. Every person's day is full of important unpaid activities and including one activity is weighed against the resulting need to forego another. This is especially true of the poor who are trying to find paid work for every possible hour and to handle other responsibilities without enough cash to do so the quickest ways. Unpaid hours can be assigned economic and social value and these values factored into other calculations. Calculation of commercial profits to agriculture without the inclusion of labour as a cost of production is methodologically incorrect. Calculating the economic returns to subsistence gardening without assigning value to the gardener's time is equally improper. As development professionals we should not rely on blanket statements of goodness like the one Michael Ableman has found. We must be prepared to defend our claims for the benefits of UPA using calculations which are correct, accurate and which conform to accepted standards of measurement. Only then can we expect to be believed. I hope this helps Michael Ableman evaluate the answers he receives to his question and provides some food for thought for other participants in this conference.


From: Tanya Bowyer-Bower []
Subject: focus on part 2 Q from Harare case study
Sent: 13/09/00 17:27

Hallo group. Below are contributions from Tanya Bowyer- Bower to the moderator’s questions for this second part of our discussion, based on the Harare case study: 

Are improved policies needed to support UPA? Yes. Very much so. What information is needed for municipal decision makers to formulate good policies redarding UPA?

 i) Knowledge of who wants to undertake UPA and why. 
ii) Knowledge of where people want to undertake UPA and why. 
iii) Knowledge of what people want to grow and why 
iv) Knowledge of the potential negative and positive environmental impacts of UPA in the city in question, and knowledge of how the positive effects can be optimised, and the negative effect mitigated. What are the constraints on urban and per-urban producers and how best to mitigate them? 

What is most important in Harare is i) to legislate agreed terms for UA which would need to include: a) security of tenure over use of land; b) policy on who is to be allowed to undertake UA and where; c) implementation of suitable and effective agricultural extension guidelines to limit negative environmental impacts. 

What policies are needed to increase employment and income from UPA production and processing?
 i)by targeting those who most need to undertake UA 
ii)by giving them security of tenure 
iii)by assisting in strategies to minimise theft
 iv)by ensuring good land husbandry techniques are practiced Is this a desirable policy goal? 

Yes in Harare as a self-help strategy for the urban poor vis a vis enhancing poverty reduction, enhancing self reliance, reducing dependence on state, relieving dependence on dwindling employment, buffering impacts of increasingly worthless incomes, helping to protect against rampant inflation, etc. How do the policy needs of subsistence farmers differ from those of market-orientated farmers? - current lack of security of tenure and lack of land- husbandry support. The above is where the situation is at in Harare. Obviously other case studies have raised different issues (and some complimentary ones as well). In fact from the varieties of case studies given from around the world, I think one could establish a model quite easily of what the typical answers to the above questions are likely to be according to how ‘mature’ (in terms of what stage along the evolutionary process) the UPA activities have become (possibly in terms of the extent to which UPA is fully accepted and supported by ‘the authorities’). Feed back welcome. 

Tanya Bowyer-Bower, Lecturer, researcher and consultant,
Department of Geography,
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),
University of London,


From: Egal, Florence (ESNP)
To: ''
Subject: What happens to the food once it is produced?
Sent: 14/09/00 19:13

Dear participants in the food security and nutrition group, We are a bit concerned that the discussion on session 2 has not received many contributions to date in this particular group. In the last session you made it clear that UPA was contributing to urban food supply, in particular for perishable foods. You also mentioned that in some cases it was making a major contribution to household food security of low-income families, either through auto-consumption or through income-generation (through selling, processing or preparing those foods). We are now discussing policy measures. We are interested to know from you how food security and nutrition considerations have been / or should be incorporated in urban and peri-urban planning Also your opinions, from a food security perspective, on when and in which contexts UPA should be promoted would be appreciated. .Do you know of any measure that is having a positive or negative impact on ensuring that UPA 1/ contributes to appropriate urban food supply (from production to consumption) 2/ contributes to improved diets of poor households? As you will see from the summaries below, attention is focusing so far on "upstream" aspects of UPA (such as access to land) or health and food safety issues related to production. There is not much about post harvest and consumption aspects.

The moderators 

Please find below the summaries of last week's discussions of the Planning and the Health and Environment groups. For more information you can also check the original contributions to these themes on the conference website: 


Comentarios de los moderadores

Estimados participantes en el grupo de seguridad alimentaria y nutrición: Hemos notado que la disertación sobre la Sesión 2, hasta el momento, ha recibido más bien pocas contribuciones, por lo que estamos un poco preocupados. En la última sesión, Udes. dejaron claro que la agricultura urbana y peri-urbana (AUP) favorecía el suministro de alimentos en áreas urbanas, especialmente en lo que se refiera a alimentos perecederos. Igualmente, mencionaron que, en algunos casos, ésta contribuía de manera importante a la seguridad alimentaria en los hogares de familias de bajos ingresos, o bien a través del auto-consumo y/o a través de la generación de ingresos (con la venta, el procesamaiento y la preparación de dichos alimentos). Dado que actualmente estamos discutiendo medidas y políticas, estamos interesados en la información que nos puedan ofrecer sobre cómo la seguridad alimentaria y otras consideraciones nutricionales han sido (o deberían haber sido) incorporadas a la planificación urbana y peri-urbana.

De la misma manera, le quedaríamos agradecidos si pudiera enviarnos su opinión, desde el punto de vista de seguridad alimentaria, sobre cuando y en que contexto la APU debería ser promovida. ¿Sabe Ud. si existe algún tipo de medida que tenga un impacto positivo o negativo en el garantizar que la AUP contribuya: 1) ¿ al suministro apropiado de alimentos en el área urbana (de la producción al consumo)?; 2) ¿a mejorar la dieta de los hogares pobres? Como lo verán en los sumarios indicados más abajo, por el momento la atención se ha focalizado sobre los factores determinantes de la producción, (por ejemplo, el acceso a la tierra) o en los aspectos de contaminación alimentaria y riesgos sanitarios relacionados con la producción. Desgraciadamente, no hay mucha información sobre aspectos de consumo y post-cosecha. Los moderadores. Les ruego encontrar más abajo los sumarios de las ponencias de la semana pasada sobre los grupos de Salud y Planificación. 

Para más información, pueden Uds. también comprobar las contribuciones originales en estos temas en el sito de la conferencia: <


Commentaires des modérateurs

Chers Participants, Nous sommes un peu préoccupées par le relatif silence de ce groupe depuis le début de cette session . Lors de la dernière session vous avez clairement montré l'importance de l'AUP pour l'approvisionnement urbain, et en particulier par les produits périssables. Vous avez également expliqué que dans certains cas l'AUP apporte une contribution majeure à la sécurité alimentaire des ménages démunis, soit par le biais de l'auto-consommation, soit du fait des revenus générés par la vente, la transformation ou la préparation des aliments. Nous discutons en ce moment les mesures et politiques concernant l'AUP. Nous aimerions savoir comment les notions de sécurité alimentaire et nutrition sont prises en compte ou devraient être prises en compte dans la

planification urbaine et périurbaine. Nous apprécierions que vous nous disiez si du point de vue de la sécurité alimentaire l'AUP devrait être encouragée et dans quel contexte. Pourriez vous nous donner des exemples de mesures (aux différents stades de la filière alimentaire) ayant eu un impact positif ou négatif sur la contribution de l'AUP 1) aux modes de consommation de la population urbaine 2) à la nutrition des ménages démunis? Comme le verrez dans les résumés ci-dessous, les interventions se sont jusqu'à présent surtout concentrées sur les aspects « en amont » de l'AUP (comme l'accès a terre) ou sur les risques sanitaires et les problèmes de contamination. Il n'y a pas beaucoup d'information sur les aspects de post-récolte et de consommation. Veuillez trouver en annexe les résumés des discussions des groupes Planification et Santé. 

Vous trouverez davantage d'informations sur le site web de la conférence à l'adresse suivante: <


From: Paule Moustier [
Subject: food outlets Sent: 15/09/00 09:16

Dear conference participants,

Following F. Egal's question, you will find below a contribution to the question of outlets for U/PUA derived from CIRAD case studies in Congo, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Cameroon and Guinee Bissau.

Short marketing chains Historically the development of marketing was producers' initiatives who gathered at certain points of the cities to sell their products which was the basis of informal markets. At present the spheres of production and marketing are very closely related. Between producer and consumer, there is zero to three types of intermediaries, according to the distance of production site to urban market and the state of urban transport. For instance, in Bangui, where the state of urban transport is appalling the vegetables produced 30 km from city center go through 3 intermediaries, compared to zero in Bissau. The percentage of producer-retailers is 20-30% in the studied situations except in Bissau where it is 70% due to the recent nature of periurban production. The most observed marketing chain is very short : Producer to retailer to consumer, or Producer to consumer, relative to rural marketing where assembling and wholesale stages are usually observed. Periurban gardens are characterized by their scattered nature and the absence of price-maker producer or trader. The working capital involved in marketing is limited for instance, less than 0,5 $/day in Brazzaville for vegetable retailers. Balanced bargaining power and incomes between producers and traders The relationships between producers and traders - typically female - are characterized by personal, sometimes family links, with informal bilateral commitments. Bargaining powers between producers and traders heavily depend on the distance and accessibility between production site and market. Traders' behaviour are not exploitative. Yet as the quantities marketed by each agent are very limited, prices between producer and consumption price typically shift from 1 to 2, while traders' incomes are not higher than producers and hardly cover household expenditures. The prices of perishable products are characterized by sharp fluctuations which force consumers to give up their purchases at some periods of the year. Making production more stable to make prices more stable Hence to decrease the final price a crucial element is to make producer output more easy to get access to through information dissemination, improvement in urban transport, plus technical support to decrease production vagaries. 

Source : Moustier, P. 1999. Définitions et contours de l'agriculture périurbaine en Afrique subsaharienne. In : Agriculture périurbaine en Afrique subsaharienne, CIRAD/CORAF, Montpellier, Editions Colloques du CIRAD, pp. 29-43. 

Dr Paule Moustier 
CIRAD-FLHOR TA 50/04 Avenue Agropolis
34 398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
Tel : 04 67 61 56 35
Fax : 04 67 61 59 80