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Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Lower Food Miles

Vivek Prasad's picture

Millions of urban dwellers cultivate vegetables and fruit trees in home gardens, both for their families and for sale. In Dakar, 7500 households “grow their own” in micro-gardens. In Malawi, 700 000 urban residents practice home gardening to meet their food needs and earn extra income. Low-income city gardeners in Zambia make US$230 a year from sales. In cities like Bamako, Accra and Kumasi, depending on crop and season, between 60 and 100 per cent of leafy vegetables consumed are produced within the respective cities with employment figures ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 jobs. Even megacities such as Shanghai, with about 15% population growth per year, one of the fastest growing cities on the planet, maintains its urban farming as an important part of its economic system.

 

Farm plots amidst apartment blocks in Chaozhou, China.

Around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms already supply food to about 700 million residents of cities, representing about a quarter of the world’s urban population.    

Most cities in developing countries are facing challenges to create formal job opportunities. Urban agriculture can play an important role not only in enhancing food security but also in contributing to the eco-system - improved nutrition, poverty alleviation, local economic development and job creation as well as productive reuse of urban wastes.

Cuba has a system of urban organic farms called Organopónicos, which provides a fresh supply of organic food to the community, neighborhood improvement, beautification of urban areas, as well as employment opportunities. Cuba has more than 7,000 organopónicos, with some 200 gardens in Havana alone, covering more than 35,000 hectares of land, which supply its citizens with 90% of their fruit and vegetables. In Havana, 117,000 jobs in Havana and income for 150,000 low income families were directly provided by urban and peri-urban agriculture.

Helping Afghan farmers build better lives

Mohammad Hassan Ibrahimi's picture
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy

I am a messenger between local farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). That’s my role as provincial coordinator of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) for Daykundi Province. I lead agricultural trainings, visit farmers, oversee all project activities in the province—there is no typical day. I’m constantly working to understand and help improve the situation of Daykundi’s farmers. I usually learn as much from my interactions with farmers as I teach—one of the favorite parts of my job is when farmers share the wisdom they’ve gained farming the land for generations.
 
Most of the farmers we work with are very poor, and it is easy to see the direct impact our work has in improving their livelihoods and lives. In teaching basic horticultural skills, creating sustainable livelihoods, and giving farmers the resources they need, we are helping rebuild Afghanistan from the grassroots. With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP works to promote the adoption of improved horticulture practices and spark grassroots efforts that will be self-sustaining beyond the direct work of our projects.
 
Since NHLP launched in Daykundi Province in 2014, we have established 1,400 jeribs, or 280 hectares, of grapes, almonds, apples, and apricots, and we’re working to build 18 water harvesting structures to improve irrigation across the province.

Measuring family farming is tricky business

Vellore Arthi's picture



Of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty, the vast majority resides in rural areas, relying on smallholder agriculture as a source of income and livelihood. Agricultural labor statistics are needed to study some of the most pressing issues in development:  how households earn income, the factors driving urbanization, the causes of un- and under-employment, the constraints to growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, and, in the big picture, understanding the potential for structural transformation. And, as climate change continues to impact smallholder farming outcomes, collecting quality data is even more important as we think ahead to interventions that promote climate-resilience for family farmers.

Agribusiness can help to unlock the true potential of Africa

Teodoro De Jesus Xavier Poulson's picture
A woman farmer works fields in the Conde’ community of Morro da Bango, Angola. © Anita Baumann

The challenges faced by small farmers are similar across the developing world – pests, diseases and climate change. Yet in Africa the challenges are even greater. If farmers are to survive at current rates (let alone grow), they need to have access to high-yielding seeds, effective fertilizers and irrigation technologies. These issues threaten the region’s ability to feed itself and make business-growth and export markets especially difficult to reach. Other factors include the rise in global food prices and export subsidies for exporters in the developed economies, which leave African farmers struggling to price competitively.

Mwomboshi Dam: Ushering in a new era of farming in Zambia

Ina-Marlene Ruthenberg's picture
Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu cuts the ribbon to mark the construction of the new Mwomboshi Dam, projected to be the largest dam in the country’s history.
Photo credit: Royd Sibajene


Amid pomp, traditional dance and splendor, in rural Chisamba, central Province, the President of Zambia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, cut an elaborate ribbon donned in Zambian colors of red, black, green and orange to lay a foundation stone to mark the construction of the Mwomboshi Dam. The dam construction is funded by the World Bank under the Irrigation Development and Support Project (ISDP) with the amount of $37 million. Not only did I attend this significant ground-breaking ceremony as a representative of the World Bank Group (WBG), but I also took the opportunity to say a Bemba agriculture idiom I have been taught by my colleagues at the office.

Campaign art: Sounds of life in the forest

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Satellites have been sending us all images of planet earth for decades. For many, photographs of earth at night are particularly enchanting as the cameras can detect natural and man-made light, showing everything from the night-time glow of the Sahara Desert to the light of a single village on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Through these photos, the bright lights of cities shine through the night sky, revealing where life is vibrant and populations are dense… and where it is not.  

However, a new video from POL, an agency in Oslo Norway, and the Rainforest Foundation reminds us how wrong that view is: It is not cities that house the most life, but forests.

Forests are widely known as the world’s largest source of biodiversity.  They are complex ecosystems that affect almost every species on the planet.  More than two thirds of the world's plant species and more than half of the world's animals are found in the tropical rainforests, according to California Institute of Technology. Furthermore, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated in the 2014 State of the World’s Forests report, forests also contribute significantly to food security and energy production for millions of people.  

Together, the Rainforest Foundation and POL went to the Amazon to document life there in terms of sound. They made continuous night-time recordings that 'illuminate' and show the life in the rainforest.
 

Sounds of life


Campaign Art: Sounds of life

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Satellites have been sending us all images of planet earth for decades. For many, photographs of earth at night are particularly enchanting as the cameras can detect natural and man-made light, showing everything from the night-time glow of the Sahara Desert to the light of a single village on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Through these photos, the bright lights of cities shine through the night sky, revealing where life is vibrant and populations are dense… and where it is not.  

However, a new video from the Rainforest Foundation and POL, an agency in Norway, reminds us how wrong that view is: It is not cities that house the most life, but forests.

Forests are widely known as the world’s largest source of biodiversity.  More than two thirds of the world's plant species and more than half of the world's animals are found in the tropical rainforests, according to California Institute of Technology. Furthermore, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported in the 2014 State of the World’s Forests report, forests also contribute significantly to food security and energy production for millions of people.  

Together, the Rainforest Foundation and POL went to the Amazon to document life there in terms of sound. They made continuous night-time recordings that 'illuminate' the life in the rainforest.
 
Sounds like life

 

Adapting to climate change – securing dreams for farmers

Le Thu Thi Nguyen's picture
Vietnam is likely to be among the countries hardest hit by climate change. How has its government invested to respond to this issue? View the full infographic


Y Cham, whom I met during a mission to plan for our support for the coffee rejuvenation project, comes from the Ede ethnic minority in Dak Lak, the major robusta coffee-producing province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

The long-time farmer shared with me his worries about his four hectares of coffee garden which had not been watered enough due to the prolonged drought.

“If I cannot harvest as much coffee as last year, I cannot sustain the studies of my daughter who is a student at medical college in Hanoi”.
The Central Highland, home of 500,000 hectares of coffee, has recently been affected by severe drought. The drought this year is considered most the most serious in the last 10 years. Over-irrigation and inefficient water use, compounded by increasing periods of drought, makes coffee farmers highly vulnerable, unless they are prepared to better adapt to the changing weather patterns.  

Among the crucial factors for coffee yield, water, according to Y Cham, has become the biggest challenge in the priority order of “water, variety, funding, and science.” Water availability and advanced varieties resistant to the conditions of climate change are considered the most important factors.

Science, Technology and Innovation in Agriculture is Pivotal for Africa’s Overdue Transformation

John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor's picture
The persistence of poverty and food insecurity on the African continent is a major developmental challenge, both for Africans and the international development community. 
 
History shows that investments in agriculture can be a catalytic force in the fight against hunger, poverty and malnutrition and a well-performing farm economy can be an instrument for achieving sustained structural economic transformation. Agricultural growth was the precursor to industrial growth in Europe and, more recently through the Green Revolution, in large parts of Asia and Latin America.  The Green Revolution bypassed Africa.

When I was elected President of the Republic of Ghana in 2000, agriculture was a mainstay of the nation’s economy, accounting for 35% of its GDP, 55% of employment and 75% of export revenues. But it was a lagging, orphan sector, suffering from decades of neglect and lack of investment. Ghana’s agriculture had sadly changed little from the kind practiced generations ago.  Farmers were still eking out a living, tilling the land by hand, much like their ancestors.  
 
The World Bank’s new Agriculture Global Practice hosted President Kufuor and his colleagues from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).  Here, Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, argues that science has unbounded potential to contribute to Africa’s agricultural transformation for the benefit of all Africans and the environment.
 
Photo credit: A’Melody Lee


When Robots Attack!

Tanya Gupta's picture

Robots have been a part of our mythology for thousands of years, the emphasis alternating between their positive transformative power over human society and acting as agents of great destruction.  Our image of robots has been shaped to a large extent by Hollywood and literature.  Celluloid robots in Star Wars, 2001 Space Odyssey, Robocop, Star Trek and many of Isaac Asimov’s novels have become a part of the human story.  Off-celluloid, robots have been helping our society in concrete ways (for example police work (bomb disposal), infrastructure projects etc.).  However when Watson won Jeopardy it brought artificial intelligence and robotics a new kind of attention.  People started to wonder if robots could replace humans.  When we think of robots we think of self driven cars, household robots or even warrior robots.  However, in our view, the influence of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more subtle and their presence more ubiquitous than one would think. One such impacted sector is the agriculture sector (in the US) which is on the cusp of a massive transformation, as it moves from mechanization to automation. When rolled out and commercialized (soon) this massive scale of automation will have a significant impact on US farming and on immigration for sure.  But does this also impact the development landscape? If so how?

Agricultural robotic systems have been implemented in fruit and vegetable harvesting, greenhouses and nurseries. Harvest Automation, for example, has developed the the HV-100, a 90-pound robot for commercial nurseries that can pick up and rearrange potted plants. There are quite a few silicon valley startups that are contributing to this revolution in the region known as “America’s Salad Bowl”, around Salinas Valley. California, where Salinas Valley is located, produced $1.6 billion dollars worth of lettuce in 2010 and 70%+ of all lettuce grown in America. Lettuce Bot, a new robot developed by Stanford engineers Jorge Peraud and Lee Redden, both from farming families from Peru and Nebraska, can “produce more lettuce plants than doing it any other way” (Yahoo Finance).  Lettuce Bot’s innovation is that while attached to a tractor, it takes pictures of passing plants and compares these to a database. When the weed or a lettuce head that is too close to another one is identified, a concentrated dose of fertiliser is sprayed. A close shot of fertilizer kills the errant weed or lettuce head but actually feeds the further off crops at the same time.


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