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close this folder Chapter 6. Conclusion: leading urban agriculture into the 21st century: renewed institutional interest
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Chapter 6. Conclusion: leading urban agriculture into the 21st century: renewed institutional interest

Luc J.A. Mougeot

A rapid shift can be expected throughout the 1990s toward more multidisciplinary and policy-oriented efforts, through regional and global networking, as several research centres, public agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and external support agencies collaborate to create a more enabling environment for the proper management of agriculture and food production in and around cities. This will build on individual studies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, later followed by more institution-sponsored projects. Original research was largely carried out by social scientists, who described the extent, location, practice, benefits, and constraints of urban argriculture (UA).

In mid-1983, following the East-West Center's documentation of UA practice in the Pacific Basin (Bardach 1982), IDRC held a seminar on UA in Singapore. In 1984, it commissioned a literature search by Urban Resources Systems, which produced some 227 annotated entries (URS 1984). In the latter half of the 1980s, IDRC funded projects on urban food production in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Sokoine University of Agriculture project was undertaken at the Tanzanian government's request.

Concurrently, in 1988, the UN University's Food-Energy-Nexus Programme completed a series of major surveys in various countries (Sachs and Silk 1988) and the Cities and Ecology project of the Man and the Biosphere Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (MAB/Unesco) was carried out. The Swiss DDA (Direction de la cooperation au developpement et de ['aide humanitaire) has funded UA research by the Institut francais de recherche scientifique pour le developpement en cooperation (ORSTOM) in francophone Africa (Schilter 1991). The UNDP's UA project surveyed 21 countries in 1991/92 and launched a networking effort to further the development of city farming. UNDP has funded hydroponics projects in many LDC cities With the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it recently published a hydroponics manual (Marulanda and Izquierdo 1993).

The Forestry Department of FAO examined changing perceptions of urban forestry, the role of trees in and around densely populated areas, and opportunities and challenges related to their planting (Kuchelmeister and Braatz 1993). Components of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), such as the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), are assessing the potential role of UA for more comprehensive food-security strategies (von Braun et al. 1993). The International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) has a project group on arboriculture and urban forestry (Kuchelmeister and Braatz 1993). The Centre international de l'enfance has been exploring links between UA, street-food vending, microenterprise development, food security, and child health (Kaddar 1991).

Many nongovernmental development organizations are already active in UA, particularly in Latin America, and others are reviewing their rural agricultural record and available expertise in preparation for taking on UA development (van der Bliek 1992). Active in urban areas of Peru for more than a decade, Oxfam (formerly the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) is now becoming more involved on the Kenyan urban scene. The Developing Countries Farm Radio Network has released four radio scripts for broadcasts on UA. Various offices of UNICEF are reviewing their own record of UA projects for future policy directions.

Major UN programs, such as the Healthy Cities (World Health Organization) and Sustainable Cities (United Nations Centre for Human Settlement) provide enabling operational frameworks for research on UA to guide better urban management. Multilateral agencies that support programs to alleviate structural adjustment have recently become aware of the potential of urban food production to ameliorate the declining nutritional status of vulnerable groups (Maxwell 1993b, p. 5).

Since early 1993, IDRC's new Urban Environment Program has focused on urban water-waste-food production linkages. In May 1993, external support agencies and LDC specialists assembled in Ottawa to specify key information needs and identify collaboration mechanisms. IDRC has about 1 million CAD in active projects on UA production and urban nutrition: many past studies have explored links between waste treatment and recycling and farming, others have examined urban food-circulation systems.