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News and Resources

Urban Food Connections

News and Resources
By: Rooftops Canada
Francis Wachira lives in rundown low-rise housing owned by the City of Nairobi. He uses the land between the housing blocks to practice intensive organic farming, composting and livestock keeping. He has become Nairobi’s “Mr. Rabbit.” Mr. Wachira maintains about 500 rabbits, which he sells for breeding, food and fur. He also trains other urban farmers to raise rabbits. Unfortunately, access to land is at the local government’s discretion and the City is not very supportive of urban farmers. Mr. Wachira has become an active advocate for city policies that will enable farmers to grow food in dense urban conditions. He is a member of an urban farmers’ network supported by Rooftops Canada’s local partner, Mazingira Institute.
Rooftops Canada recognizes the important role of urban agriculture in building sustainable communities for low-income African urban families. About 30 percent of Nairobi residents produce food. Urban farming improves nutrition and food security, creates employment and enhances incomes. There are a number of urban planning and development issues to consider. They include finding responses to health concerns about raising animals in dense areas, and improving access to suitable land and water.
To better understand and respond to these issues, Rooftops Canada is implementing a one-year pilot urban food security program. It is based on a three-city partnership involving Cape Town, Toronto and Nairobi. It began with a very successful exchange visit in Toronto in June 2010 The second exchange took place in November 2010, hosted by Mazingira Institute and the Nairobi and Environs Food Security Agriculture and Livestock Forum in Nairobi.
Barbara Emanuel, Manager, Food Strategy, for Toronto Public Health, participated in the exchange. She says, “It was striking how similar our issues are. The exchange enabled us all to critically reflect on the ways to promote linkages between urban politicians, policy-makers and communities in the urban planning process. “
One of the highlights of the exchange was meeting members of the Mizuka Youth Reform Garden on the edge of Nairobi’s notorious Kibera slum. This is a group of young men, previously engaged in illegal street activities, who work on a long narrow plot by the side of the road. They are using every square metre – gardening in sacks, raising chickens and rabbits, providing a communal shower and selling water.
Stanley Visser, responsible for urban agriculture in the City of Cape Town, said the exchange helped build a “global understanding of food security” while emphasizing “youth connections.” He will be hosting the final exchange in Cape Town in May 2011.
For more information, please click here to visit the new urban food security page