New FAO Report on Urban Horticulture & Green Cities in Africa

A new FAO report ‘Growing greener cities in Africais the first status report on the continent’s urban and peri-urban horticulture, which includes the home, school, community and market gardens that produce fruits and vegetables in and around African cities. Whilst urban agricultural systems are recognized for generating local employment, reducing food transport costs and pollution, creating urban green belts, and recycling urban waste as a productive resource (and according to the report market gardening is the single most important source of locally grown, fresh produce in 10 out of 27 countries surveyed), they are often not officially recognized, regulated or supported.

Photo: Preparing a garden in Kigali (FAO/Giulio Napolitano). Copyright: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

The report is based on surveys and case studies from 31 countries across the African continent, and makes recommendations on how cities can better prepare to face the rapidly increasing demand for food and other basic amenities. The report includes profiles of urban and peri-urban horticulture in 22 African countries and makes recommendations for the development of market gardens to serve Africa’s rapidly growing urban population.

The report identifies 5 key major benefits of urban and peri-urban faming which include: food and nutrition security; sustainable livelihoods; a safe, clean environment; healthy communities; and good governance. It also mentions some interesting statistics on the popularity of urban and peri-urban agriculture, including the fact that in Dakar, 7 500 households “grow their own” in micro-gardens and in Malawi, 700 000 urban residents practice home gardening to meet their food needs and earn extra income. In addition, forty percent of households in sub-Saharan cities are also urban farmers.

Cairo, Egypt - Fruit and vegetable vendors at a city market in Cairo.

Cairo, Egypt – Fruit and vegetable vendors at a city market in Cairo. Copyright: FAO/Ami Vitale

According to the report, by the end of the current decade, 24 of the world’s 30 fastest growing cities will be African; more than half of all urban Africans live in slums; and up to 200 million survive on less than $2 a day – which will have implications for food security and nutrition in Africa. In this context, urban and peri-urban horticulture may provide a means of enhancing sustainable livelihoods, nutrition, climate change adaptation and sustainable development. All of the country surveys confirmed that urban and peri-urban horticulture significantly contributes towards urban food security, nutrition and incomes.

The report recommends that market gardening in particular (i.e. commercial production of fruit and vegetables in urban areas) has potential for further development. It recommends actions for the sustainable development of market gardening which include: providing political and institutional support; integrating market gardening into urban planning; increasing production and improving the quality of production; and building an efficient horticulture supply system.

“Developing sustainable market gardens to serve African cities requires, first, that policymakers recognize the sector’s current contribution to the urban food supply and to urban livelihoods. Then, they will need to zone and protect land and water for market gardens, and encourage growers to adopt eco-friendly “Save and Grow” farming practices that produce more, while reducing food contamination risks and protecting the environment. All stakeholders will need to cooperate in building an efficient urban fruit and vegetable supply system, one that provides fresh produce at a price all residents can afford” says Modibo Traoré, Assistant Director General of the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the FAO in the forward to the report.

“African policymakers need to act now to steer urbanization from its current, unsustainable path towards healthy, ‘greener’ cities that ensure food and nutrition security, decent work and income, and a clean environment for all their citizens,” says Modibo Traoré.

Source: FAO 

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