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


Feeding Africa's Growing Cities Into The 21st Century: The Potential Of Urban Agriculture

By Tony Binns
Senior Lecturer in Geography, School of African and Asian Studies,
University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QN
By Kenneth Lynch
Senior Lecturer, School of Geography, Kingston University
Kingston-upon-Thames, KT1 2EE

Feeding Africa's growing cities into the 21st century: the potential of urban agriculture
Tony Binns and Kenneth Lynch
1998, : Journal of International Development, 10(6), pp. 777-793.

We have placed extracts from this paper on this page as well as a link to the full text of the report, which is a downloadable Word RTF document. This document does not include maps, photos, etc. -- to view these resources, you must go to the journal listed beside the report title.


Sub-Saharan Africa is urbanising more rapidly than any other part of the world and there is an escalating demand for fresh foodstuffs from the urban population.The growing of crops in and around towns and cities is frequently a widespread and long-established activity, yet a greater understanding is needed of the patterns and processes involved. From a survey of literature and detailed empirical evidence from Kano and Dar es Salaam, this paper presents a framework for analysing urban agriculture and proposes a number of policy recommendations which could possibly enhance its future sustainability.


The rapid rate of urban growth in Third World countries is giving much cause for concern. Whereas in 1960 only 22% of the population of Third World countries lived in urban areas, this figure is projected to increase to 44% by the new millennium (Pinstrup-Andersen, 1994). The situation is particularly alarming in Sub-Saharan Africa where, although some 70% of the population still live and work in rural areas, the average annual urban growth rate of 4.8% between 1980 and 1993 was more rapid than in any other part of the world (World Bank, 1995). Past experience suggests that the future sustainable development and political stability of Third World cities will be crucially dependent upon the availability of reliable and reasonably priced food supplies for their burgeoning populations (Paddison et al, 1990; Walton and Seddon, 1994). Indeed, as Drakakis-Smith observes, "...urban social protest is far more likely to be initiated by food shortages or price rises than by housing problems" (Drakakis-Smith, 1991, p51).

There has been a growing interest in recent years in the considerable potential of agriculture in and around the large cities of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), as one possible element in solving the problem of future food supply. The International Food Policy Research Institute comments, "... One way to help ward off hunger among low-income households of the future may be through 'urban agriculture' - the farming of small plots of land available in urban environments or on the perimeter of the city" (IFPRI, 1996, p6). Egziabher et al (1994) stress the importance of urban agriculture for many reasons, including providing employment, food supply, supplementing incomes and producing important nutrition not normally available to low-income households. Lynch comments, "...If urban agriculture in Dar es Salaam were to stop tomorrow, not only would it raise the prices of certain foods, (but) it would result in an almost complete end to the availability of some foods...which form an important element in the diet of Dar es Salaam residents" (Lynch, 1995, p81). The significance of urban agriculture was further emphasised recently at the United Nations Habitat II conference, held in Istanbul in June 1996. A UNDP report produced for the conference comments, "...Urban agriculture in Africa presents a contradiction: it has a relatively long tradition and is widely practised, yet in most African countries it has been undervalued and resisted by generations of public officials" (UNDP, 1996, p38). There seems to be widespread agreement that urban and peri-urban agriculture has been neglected by governments and researchers and must now become the focus of urgent attention, "...The importance of urban agriculture has rarely been fully grasped by city authorities or by researchers" (HABITAT, 1996, p410). As Egziabher et al argue, "...Many of the urban development studies in developing countries concentrate on housing, urban services, and non-agricultural informal activities. However, they mainly exclude or give little attention to urban agriculture...It has been disregarded by researchers and little understood by urban planners and decision-makers" (Egziabher et al, 1994, p87). Possibly this lack of recognition and understanding of urban agriculture stem from the stereotypical view held by policy-makers that 'rural' and 'urban' are distinct entities, where rural is perceived as being synonymous with agriculture and urban is associated with services and manufacturing.

Full Report (Word RTF, 66KB, 7766 words): Feeding Africa's growing cities into the 21st century : the potential of urban agriculture

Search Our Site[new]

pointer Return to Contents' Page pointer

Revised Saturday, November 1, 2003

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture