Urban Food Security
Over half the world’s population -- more people than ever before -- are living in urban areas. In the developing world, about 900 million people live in urban slums. In Sub-Saharan Africa, six out of every ten urban dwellers, 200 million people, suffer from poverty, deprivation and inadequate housing. Almost half of the people living in African slums are malnourished.
Many people in slum households in cities like Nairobi try to grow their own food and keep livestock, usually a few chickens or goats. Some people are able to sell what they produce, particularly if they have livestock products. Almost 60 percent of small-scale urban farmers are women.
Urban agriculture plays a critical role in building sustainable families and communities. Urban farming improves nutrition and food security, creates employment and enhances incomes. It also presents some tough challenges in dense urban housing environments. These include getting access to suitable land and water, dealing with health concerns about raising animals in settlement areas, and integrating urban agriculture into the design of new housing developments.
For the past few years, Rooftops Canada has been supporting some small-scale urban agriculture initiatives. Rooftops Canada has helped to improve nutrition among housing co-op members living with HIV in Kenya and Zimbabwe. We have also helped small rural producers get better prices by selling their products through a shop in Yaoundé, Cameroon, managed by our local partner, CONGEH. Rooftops Canada has also enabled Communicare, a social housing provider in Cape Town, to share experiences with Toronto Community Housing about community gardens related to community development.
It is clear that slum dwellers are making huge innovations in urban agriculture. Members of the Mizuka Youth Reform Garden near Nairobi’s massive Kibera slum grow food on a long narrow plot by the side of a main road. They use every square metre – gardening in sacks, and raising chickens and rabbits.
Stepping up its support to urban agriculture, Rooftops Canada is now implementing a one-year pilot urban food security program. It is based on a three-city partnership involving many organizations in Cape Town, Toronto and Nairobi. It began in June 2010 with a successful exchange visit to Canada. Participants fromMazingira Institute, Communicare and the City of Cape Town shared experiences with over 20 urban food justice groups in Toronto. The second exchange took place in November 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya, where participants from Cape Town, Toronto Public Health and Schools without Borders were hosted by Mazingira Institute and the Nairobi and Environs Food Security Agriculture and Livestock Forum.
The two exchanges reinforced the remarkable similarities in urban food security issues even in very different contexts, such as finding creative ways to links urban politicians, policy-makers and communities to support urban agriculture. The exchanges focus on two key areas: establishing effective policies and multi-stakeholder strategies to support community-based urban food production; and engaging youth participation in urban agriculture. Learning from the exchanges is being shared with a wider group of stakeholders in each city.
The next exchange will take place in Cape Town, South Africa later this year. It will help define the future direction of our urban food security program.
Food Insecurity in Cape Town [November 2012]
Mazingira Urban Vegetables farming [March 2012]
Food for the Cities 2011