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News and Resources

Cultivating the Future: Urban Food Security Exchange

News and Resources
By: Rooftops Canada
The power of food to bring people together was reinforced during an exchange visit organized by Rooftops Canada in June. Kuria Gathuru from Mazingira Institute in Nairobi, Stanley Visser from the City of Cape Town and Lourens De Jaeger of Communicare, a social housing organization also in Cape Town,met with Toronto-based groups involved in urban food security and community gardening.
Rooftops Canada and its African partners are promoting projects to improve food security in the impoverished urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Many urban housing groups working with Rooftops Canada are already helping people grow food to meet their basic needs and promote healthy communities. Good nutrition is especially vital to people affected by HIV and AIDS. "Urban agriculture is a vehicle to drive community development, safety, health and sustainability," Lourens said. Kuria agreed, adding that "food is the end product but not the only motivator."
The ten-day program was packed with meetings and visits to urban food growers, advocacy groups and policy makers.The visits explored how urban food contributes to sustainable environments and resilient cities by managing urban waste through composting; reducing climate change by "growing local"; and, recycling and reducing water use. Many of the groups stressed the importance of linking urban food production to education and youth mobilization. "All of the organizations had something helpful to take away and we hope these partnerships continue to grow," Kuria said.
Wayne Roberts of the Toronto Food Policy Council was exhilarated by the exchange. He said, "The tour rekindled my passion for urban agriculture! I expected we would have few problems to share among people active in such different places. But it turned out we were all interested in ways to attract more youth to work on urban agriculture and ways to influence housing builders and managers to include food in housing design and housing programs."
"By building connections and bringing international visitors into the Toronto context, we were also able to strengthen local partnerships and have rich conversations around food issues," said Barbara Emanuel of Toronto Public Health.
Stanley reflected: "We share a lot of challenges in building cooperation between sectors and articulating the policy formation process. This study visit has been an important step forward." Lourens added, "Lesson learned from exchange will help us get much- needed programs off the ground in South Africa and Kenya."
Rooftops Canada thanks all the individuals and organizations who participated in this exchange.