FAO's Programme for Urban and Peri-urban Horticulture

African policymakers need to act now to steer urbanization from its current, unsustainable path toward healthy, greener cities...

This report highlights a key component of sustainable urban development – urban and peri-urban horticulture (UPH). Based on an Africa-wide survey and on country case studies, it reviews the current state of UPH in cities across the continent. It presents major findings, profiles of urban and peri-urban horticulture in 22 countries, and recommendations for the development of market gardens to serve Africa's rapidly growing urban population.

A new day in Africa

Urbanization of the continent is at a turning point. But which way will it turn?

  • Between 1960 and 2010, Africa's urban population grew from 53 million to 400 million.
  • By 2030, the number of Africans living in towns and cities will increase by a further 345 million.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the urban population will double, to almost 600 million.

Image: NASA

Time to “re-imagine” African cities

Past economic growth has only exasperated levels of urban hunger, inequality and poverty

  • Africa has the world's biggest slum population – 210 million people.
  • 200 million urban residents live on less than US$2 a day.
  • 180 million have inadequate sanitation, 50 million unsafe drinking water.

Photo: Niko Lipsanen

Many cities are already “green”

40% of households in sub-Saharan cities are also urban farmers

  • Millions of urban Africans cultivate vegetables and fruit trees in home gardens, both for their families and for sale.
  • In Dakar, 7 500 households “grow their own” in micro-gardens.
  • In Malawi, 700 000 urban residents practise home gardening to meet their food needs and earn extra income.

Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Key to greener cities: market gardens

But in most of urban Africa, gardens have grown with little recognition, regulation or support

  • Market gardening already produces fresh food for millions of Africans.
  • Land suitable for horticulture is being taken for housing, industry and infrastructure.
  • To maximize earnings, many gardeners are overusing pesticide and wastewater.

Photo: FAO/Olivier Asselin

Fruit and vegetables need land and water

Urban managers should zone land for horticulture and treat wastewater for re-use in market gardens

  • Market gardens create green belts that protect fragile areas and build resilience to climate change.
  • Large areas of land could be zoned for horticulture.
  • Treated wastewater is safe and can supply most of the nutrients needed for growing fruit and vegetables.

Photo: FAO/Olivier Asselin

Gardeners need to “save and grow”

Objective: grow more and better quality produce while nourishing the urban agro-ecosystem

  • Eco-friendly cultivation cuts production costs and contamination risks.
  • Well composted soil produces more using less fertilizer, less pesticide and less water.
  • Rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation reduce demand on urban water supplies.

Photo: FAO/Olivier Asselin

An efficient horticulture supply chain

All stakeholders need to cooperate in optimizing the flow of produce from grower to consumer

  • Encourage gardeners to form their own self-managed cooperatives.
  • City authorities should plan clean, decentralized markets.
  • Informal markets save poor households time and money, and are an alternative to unhealthy street foods.

Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

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