Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Towards the Establishment of a Development and Research/Training Network on Urban Agriculture for East and Southern Africa

Camillus J. Sawio (Ph.D)
Department of Geography,
University of Dar es Salaam
P.O. Box 35049, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Tel: 255-51-410500-8 extn 2337/2342.
Fax: 255-51-410393/ 410395.


Mr. Lood Spies
Technikon Pretoria,
Private Bag X680
Pretoria 0001
Republic of South Africa.
Fax: 27-12-327-7639

Paper Presented at the ISBRAM-FAO Workshop on Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture, Accra, Ghana, 2-6 August, 1999.

Towards the Establishment of a Development and Research/Training Network on Urban Agriculture for East and Southern Africa

1. Introduction

A growing recognition of the importance and significance of Urban Agriculture (UA) has taken place world wide (Dubbeling, 1998). This is becoming even more significant because globally, by the year 2020, food production could fail to keep pace with increases in demand for food by the growing population in the developing countries given current trends (International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI, 1997). UA has a long established history in Asia and also in Western countries. Now it is expanding rapidly in Africa and Latin America. It is documented that for the past twenty years or so, urban agriculture has been expanding globally. It is by large a response to the market demands arising from rapid urbanization (Smith and Olaloku, 1998). It is perhaps expanding more rapidly than urban populations and associated economies in many developing countries (Smit, 1996:1). Urban and peri-urban agriculture is increasingly being seen as an important component of urban development, and urban environmental management. It can be a viable source of incomes, jobs and food for the urban poor. For the Sub-Saharan region, dented by poverty, rapid population growth, civil strife, refugee crises, environmental degradation and unstable economic and political conditions, urban agriculture is an alternative source of employment, household incomes, nutrition and food security among many low-income urban dwellers.

The concept and definition of urban agriculture is fairly recent in main stream research topics. It is gaining currency in research on urban systems, environmental planning and management, and sustainable development. UA is now recognized as a crucial component in cities' social, economic, environmental, and ecological benefits, if carried out in an environmentally friendly manner. UA, broadly defined

In other words, UA is an activity that produces, processes, and markets food and other products on land and water in urban and peri-urban areas, using intensive production methods and (re)using natural resources and urban wastes (CFP, 1998, No. 22). as the production of food and non-food through cultivation of plants, tree crops, aquaculture, and animal husbandry within urban and peri-urban areas (Mougeot, 1994), is an omnipresent, crucial and potentially sustainable survival livelihood strategy for urban poor households (Hasna, 1998).

Viewed much more broadly, urban and peri-urban agriculture, focus on urban cultural values, natural, human and fiscal resource use, land use planning and management, food and energy production, food security, technology, education, recreation, environmental conservation, micro-climate modification, income generation and recycling of wastes and used water. There is ample evidence today, that the spatial growth and socio-economic importance of urban and peri-urban agriculture in African cities are fairly well documented. Apart from crop production, livestock production is expanding around cities (Mosha, 1991; Mlozi, 1995; Maxwell, 1994; Sawio, 1993, 1998). Nearly 25 percent to 36 percent of surveyed households in 5 km. radius in Kampala, produce and market staple food such as cassava, maiza, beans as well as poultry meat and eggs; pigs and other small livestock (Maxwell, 1994).

1.1 The Global UA Trends

In the search for more meaningful development in balance with the environment, urban agriculture has been recognized by the world community as one viable urban development option. It has been noted that:

"Officially sanctioned and promoted, urban agriculture could become an important component of urban development and make food available to the urban poor. The primary purpose of such promotion should be to improve the nutritional and health standards of the poor, help their family budgets (50-70 percent of which is usually spent on food), enable them to earn some additional income and provide employment. Urban agriculture can also provide fresher and cheaper produce, more green space, the clearing of garbage dumps, and recycling of household waste" (WCED, 1987:254).

Indeed, the Agenda 21 (Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992) is stressing the need for innovative and integrated strategies in urban land use planning, including urban and peri-urban agriculture. Often this involves urban poor small-scale activities in food production and processing, marketing and recycling and re-using urban wastes.

Research and Development in UA began in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some of the key topics then included nutrition promotion, alleviation of hunger, scavenging, waste treatment and nutrient recycling, and dynamics of the informal sector. The IDRC has always been a leader in this field. The United Nations University, through its Food-Energy-Nexus Programme in the 1980s also led the way in UA research. However, international development cooperation in UA began in the 1990s. Today, after a number of researches unearthed the contribution and role of UA in both advanced and developing countries, international agencies have become more aware of the importance of the sector. They have seen the need to pool resources together to support it and to enhance research capacity and disseminate pertinent technical information on the industry.

An International Support Group on Urban Agriculture (SGUA) in has already been created. Pioneered by IDRC, a New Global Facility for Urban Agriculture (GFUA) was created in March 1996 at an international consultation by the SGUA. The SGUA was formed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1992 to examine issues on urban food security and urban agriculture especially in developing countries (CFP, No. 17). The GFUA, as a multi-partner group aims at promoting the sustainable use of UA world-wide. Membership has grown substantially, including: IDRC, FAO, UNDP, NRI, IFPRI, World Bank, ETC, EDI, DGIS, GTZ and others. In Europe, the European Support Group on Urban Agriculture (ESGUA) has been established.

There is growing global interest in using UA to influence policy on urban development, urban planning and environmental management, food security improvement, building of healthy and save urban systems, strengthening poverty alleviation and other policy formulation and implementation for sustainable urban development.

Arguably, the international agencies have realized that there is a need to act proactively to develop the concept of urban agriculture and to demonstrate its potentials as a development tool. One among many objectives is to show how UA can be used as viable productive means to manage the urban environment on the one hand, and on the other hand how cities can use the concept and the practice of UA to increase their employment opportunities, incomes, food self-reliance, and healthier, greener, livable and sustainable urban landscapes.

While Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture (UA & PUA) contribute to food security and income generation, "improvements to the environmental and human health are important by-products. Increasingly, policy makers, are taking advantage of this potential UA benefit to strengthen environmental and urban planning policies. The production of trees, shrubs, flowers, and ornamental plants can beautify the city, cool its climate, and absorbs air pollution and odours.

But the most significant link between UA and environmental and public health is waste management" (CFP, 1998, No. 22). Urban waste production is growing in all cities globally, and the potential for sustainable UA to serve as one of the tools to deal with this urban waste, both as an end-use and as a treatment technique, is promising (Ibid.).

With regard to numbers of people involved in UA world wide, estimates produced by the Urban Agriculture Network (TUAN) an NGO, shows that, there are about 800 million people practicing UA worldwide. Of these, 200 million are producing for the market, and 150 million practice UA full-time. Urban agriculture will continue to expand in the decades ahead. It is estimated that between 1993 and 2005, UA might increase its share of world food from 15% to 33%. Its share of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and dairy consumed in cities could rise from 33% to 50%, and the number of urban farmers producing for the market might increase from 200 million to 400 million (CFP, 1996, No. 18).

Numerous statistics from urban and peri-urban agriculture literature in East and Southern Africa attest to the growing and expanding practice and importance of this industry or sector. It is now accepted that both play important roles, particularly in:

1.2 Urban Agriculture Research, Training, and Network Development Problematique

While research on UA is increasing and there is a growing global interest in the potential of UA as a component in urban development, planning, and management, "a gap is fast developing between the demand of governments and organizations for guidance on UA and the supply of UA professional expertise and institutional capacities. This is critical in the developing countries.

In South Africa for example, urban agriculture is seen at the national level in the policy context of Agenda 21 and the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP). There is a need to develop a national strategy for sustainable development by the year 2002. A new unit in South Africa is being established in the Office of Deputy President for that purpose. Considering other countries within the region that may be interested in UA, there is a need to establish an appropriate network.

Through the International Development Research Center's (IDRC's) Cities Feeding People (CFP) Program Initiative (PI), a capacity is being built to support development research to remove constraints and enhance the potential for UA interventions to improve household food security, income generation, public health, and waste and land management" (CFP, 1998, No. 22). The CFP (PI) program's specific objectives which are the foundations for the establishment of UA Research and Development/ Training Networks are as follows:

In order to realize these objectives and to tackle critical UA problems, the CFP strategies focus, among others, on:

  1. Formalizing partnerships between individuals and organizations with UA knowledge. Ensuring that UA initiatives, including development research, must be promoted not as ends but as means.

  2. Policy and technology interventions in UA should be seen as components of larger development strategies aimed at urban food security, poverty, income generation, environmental improvement, and gender and ethnic dynamics.

  3. Ensuring that UA initiatives, including development research, must consult appropriate stakeholders when designing, monitoring, and evaluating policy and technology interventions. These stakeholders include community-based organizations, NGOs, professional associations, municipal and national governments, research institutes and external support agencies.

2.0 Towards Establishment of a Network on UA Development, Research & Training in East and Southern Africa (UANESA)

The context for the establishment of Networking of Development, Research and Training on Urban Agriculture in East and Southern Africa is based on the foregoing explanation. Most likely, the anticipated network will be known as "Urban Agriculture Network for East and Southern Africa" (UANESA).

This proposal is yet to be accepted by the founding team members. In a workshop on Urban Agriculture project impacts organized by IDRC. It was held in Nairobi, Kenya in June 1998. The CFP, Program Initiative (PI) and the project team participants from the respective project recipient countries unanimously decided, agreed and also recommended that there was a need to establish and develop a Network of Development Research/ Training on Urban Agriculture for East and Southern Africa (UANESA).

This is for English Speaking African countries, the founding members being Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Republic of South Africa. It is understood that a similar network is being developed following recommendations of a state-of-the-art regional seminar in Ouagadougou, or French Speaking African countries (West-Central Africa).

2.1 Constraints / Problems of Concern

The proposed network aims at removing constraints and problems constraining the promotion and management of urban and peri-urban agriculture in the member countries. It has been realized pursuant to the accumulated experience of IDRC project recipients and IDRC knowledge of the larger literature on UA that, the constraints and problems which constitute the limiting factors vary from region to region. In both West-Central and East and Southern Africa, the constraints include:

2.2 Initial Tentative Networking Proposal Towards Establishment of UANESA

2.2.1 Methodology

The members of the network-founding team attending the Nairobi workshop on project impacts in June 1998, considered the following to be the initial tentative networking proposal for East and Southern Africa. In view of the constraints/problems of concern that were identified, this Initial Proposal for the establishment of UANESA aims at:

I. Developing a Pilot UA Training Curriculum. This will design Urban Agriculture and Peri-Urban Agriculture courses, syllabus and teaching materials in the sub-region. The network pilot training curriculum is expected to be built upon regional urban and peri-urban agriculture research documented materials and experiences. Upon successful establishment UANESA and production of the regional Urban Agriculture Curriculum, the curriculum will be for undergraduates and graduates, urban and regional planners, municipal authorities and other professionals interested in the development of sustainable urban environmental systems.

UANESA will design means to carry out the actual teaching and/or training at the lead institutions in the network. The lead institutions are:

  1. The Department of Geography, University of Dar es Salaam (DG/UDSM).
  2. The Pretoria Teknikon (PT), Pretoria, South Africa.
  3. The Makerere Institute for Social Research (MISR), Kampala, Uganda.
  4. The Environment and Development-Activities, Zimbabwe (ENDAªZimbabwe) in Harare, Zimbabwe.
  5. The Mazingira Institute (MI), Nairobi-Kenya.

These will be responsible in carrying out the activities of UANESA and will include other institutions/ organizations as will be considered feasible and appropriate. In the East and Southern African context, the initial UA formal training is slated to begin at the Technikon, Pretoria.

II. Updating urban and peri-urban agriculture information through development research and sharing of research knowledge especially through e-mail and internet communication throughout the sub-region. The key areas of research, knowledge exchange and sharing as well as training will include:

III. Developing City-specific UA practical models / demonstration urban farming projects to be used from time to time for training of urban farmers, urban planners and municipal decision-makers. Through these UA model farms and/or gardens, knowledge will be imparted to stakeholders interested in incorporating UA activities in urban ecosystems in East and Southern Africa. The practical UA models are expected to be able to provide service delivery and support to on-going Urban Agriculture and Peri-urban agriculture research in the region.

2.3 Specific Purpose and Activities of UANESA

Overall, the proposed UANESA's purpose in the East and Southern Africa sub-region is to remove, as far as is feasible, the constraints and problems hindering the promotion of Urban Agriculture and Peri-urban development in the region.

Specifically, therefore, UANESA will:

Generate and disseminate new information from more research that will produce a more wholesome picture of the-state-of-the-art and practice of UA. It will enhance the contribution of Urban Agriculture and Research ensuing thereof in three identified areas thus:

  1. Appropriate and affordable UA technologies that can be developed, adopted and transferred easily within the sub-region.

  2. Small-scale urban poor farmers' production and marketing information to enhance food security and urban nutrition.

  3. Better UA sectoral policies and urban environmental planning policies that specifically address UA and environmental problems for healthier cities within the sub-region.

3.0 Developing Practical UA Models:

The vehicle for the realization of these objectives of the network proposal is the development of UA practical models/training and/or demonstration projects. It is perceived that once the basics of the UA practical models is dealt with, they can be used for research in technology development. The UA practical models can serve as a blueprint to demonstrate how to carry out appropriate UA project planning taking into consideration the socio-economic, political and environmental conditions East and Southern Africa.

It is UANESA's perception that the proposed UA Practical Models can be utilized as a tool for urban agriculture and peri-urban agriculture development research. These will act as areas of strategic advice to UA practitioners and planners, training, small scale technology development (e.g. feasible hydroponic systems, container and roof gardening methods; urban livestock raising methods; composting and energy generation systems, water management skills as well as food processing and preservation). Such practical models will become sources from which to obtain relevant information for dissemination to important role players such as local authorities, NGOs, CBOs, research communities, development leaders, and others interested in urban systems, environment and sustainable development.

3.1 UANESA and Electronic Communication

The Urban Agriculture Network for East and Southern Africa (UANESA) emphasizing the use of electronic communication. In fact the intimal modalities of marshalling information and linking potential members and supports is through electronic communication. This entails that one primary requirement is establishment of capacity building. The lead-institutions and members thereof, must be equipped with the appropriate computer hardware and software. External, international donor support is crucial in this regard. Electronic communication is considered to be a sure way of quickly and cheaply building on information technology (IT), (Ayiepeku, et al., 1994), and this is true as far as urban and peri-urban agriculture research and training is concerned.

For research and training purposes within UANESA, the network will make use of developed information systems that monitor changes, for example, Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A GIS incorporates elements of cartography, geography, photogrammentry, remote sensing, statistics, surveying and other disciplines for analysis of geo-spatially referenced data. If the capacity mentioned above is to be developed within UANESA, members will be able to benefit from other network initiatives, for example, ESANET (Eastern and Southern Network), a pilot project to link researchers at universities in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya and so forth.

The success of sharing knowledge between researchers on Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture and practitioners in the same field in African countries depends on unlocking knowledge on the existing problems and options for their solution. This involves sharing knowledge through focussed UA Model Projects as noted above, coupled with concerted teaching and research activities. The UA Models may take long to develop. However, given appropriate and informed research information they will be feasible projects. Already in the region, self-help UA projects or initiatives exist among urban communities. They lack coordination, policy support frameworks and incorporation into urban planning schemes. To establish some model ones will be one of the beginning phases of UANESA These will be linked to institutions with infrastructure that can be used by the network members to share the resources and inputs of the people as they involve in urban agricultural processes. But, in establishing the network, identification of curriculum research and training areas and identification network partners and collaborators is critical.

4.0 Potential Curriculum Areas for UANESA

Overall objective of the network has been referred to. In the course of time, however, UANESA will develop an Urban Agriculture and Peri-urban Agriculture Curriculum. As a way of tentative proposition, the anticipated curriculum could cover the following study areas, among others:

The list is long and varied. A curriculum cannot be that broad. The UANESA founding team will soon deliberate, review documents and agree on the formal set-up of the network itself and the proposed curriculum. A Regional workshop for this purpose is expected to take place in October, 1999 within the region.

4.1 Identification of Potential Organizations and Stakeholders and Donors to Support the Network (UANESA).

To carry out a training programme by the UANESA entails, among other things

  1. assembling interested students,

  2. acquiring a critical mass of academic staff to run the programme,

  3. putting in place reading and research materials (international and local), i.e books, journals, research reports and computer search capability,

  4. teaching space, and

  5. university accepted UA training courses.

This requires substantial funding over a number of years. It is in this context that it is necessary for each founding team member to carefully identify potential organizations and supporters of UANESA.

Considerable acknowledgment is extended to IDRC for supporting the initial process by a grant that will assemble the regional team members to lay the logistics and work plans of the network.

Since the network is supposed to link into the global initiative on Urban Agriculture Research and Development to date, it is perceived that the supporting, funding and/or donor institutions will have to be international, regional, national and finally local. In this context, therefore, UANESA hopes to establish contacts and links to gain technical and financial support from the following organizations and institutions on the based of their commitment to UA development globally and regionally:

  1. TUAN: The Urban Agriculture Network

  2. IDRC: International Development and Research Centre

  3. GFUA: Global Initiative on Urban Agriculture

  4. SGUA: Support Group on Urban Agriculture

  5. FAO: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

  6. UNDP: United Nations Development Programme.

  7. NRI: Natural Resources Institute (UK).

  8. ETC: ETC-UA Programme via RUAF: Resource Centre for Urban Agriculture and Forestry (The Netherlands).

  9. GTZ: Germany Agency for Technical Cooperation

  10. UNCHS: United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).

  11. UWEP: Urban Waste Expertise Progamme (Netherlands/Kenya).

  12. UNIFEM: United Nations Fund for Women (Nairobi).

  13. SAHPF: South Africa Homeless Peoples Federation.

  14. CARE: Cooperative for America Relief Everywhere (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda,
  15. Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc.).

  16. FSDA: Foundation for Sustainable Development in Africa (Kenyan NGO).

  17. FF: The Ford Foundation (Regional Chairs,).

  18. RELMA: Regional Land Management Unit (Nairobi).

  19. xxxx: Several Other Local Ministries, Departments, NGOs and CBOs in the region. These will be discussed at the proposed regional workshop in October, 1999.

UANESA's Contacts and links with international organizations and donors is a must given the growing global recognition of Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture. FAO has a special role in UA development and so does IDRC and other supportive initiatives that have been in place to support UA Research and Development.

5.0 Conclusion

It is the perception of the UANESA members that UA Practical Models for development, research and training can contribute significantly towards the financial and managerial consequences for municipalities in developing countries. These municipalities are too often inclined to follow the complex highly capitalized industrialized countries' models, which more often than not have resulted into negative impacts. With regard to the UA Models, their development and establishment within UANESA will emphasize the ability to sustain the urban system, monitoring of positive and negative environmental impacts; the opportunities these models will generate through time for urban residents in terms of food production, food supply and affordability, nutrition improvement, employment generation, training options, UA project management opportunities, creation of windows for research, development and urban planning capacity building.


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Revised Thursday, October 7, 1999

Published by City Farmer
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