Over the past three weeks, the Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature Initiative has published an article series, Growing Greener Cities, on the importance of strengthening the relationship between urbanization and agriculture. According to the United Nations, the global population is projected to reach nine billion by the year 2050, and urban areas are expected to absorb the majority of this growth, expanding by 72 percent over the next 40 years.
In addition to improving and building up urban agriculture infrastructure, cities also are scaling-up efforts to improve urban and rural areas linkages. In this series, the Landscapes for People, Food, and Nature Initiative has highlighted research and innovations that facilitate the supply of food to urban areas over the next few decades.
For example, Mark Redwood, Program Leader of the Climate Change and Water Program at the International Development Research Center in Ottawa, wrote about the importance of planning cities for urban agriculture. According to Redwood, the percentage of a poor household’s income that is spent on food can range from 60 percent, in developing Asia, to as much as 85 percent, in Dar es Salaam. Redwood’s recommendations to facilitate poor urban families’ access to food include making sure that productive urban farmland is protected, promoting land policy that treats urban agriculture as acceptable use of land, and creating markets for urban farmers to sell their produce.
Laura Shillington, a professor in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at Concordia University in Quebec explored the relationship between food and cities; primarily, how cities consume food and transform it into waste, and how global food networks have supported the growth of urban areas.
Rafael Tuts, Chief of the Urban Environmental Planning Branch of the U.N. Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) in Nairobi, focused on the importance of taking resource management and climate change prevention into account while planning for urban growth. The UN-Habitat guide, Urban Patterns for a Green Economy, illustrates how urban planners in rapidly growing cities including Dar es Salaam, Huangzhou, and Berlin are working with nature, rather than against it, for the good of ecosystems.
Marielle Dubbeling, Director of the International Network of Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF Foundation) in The Netherlands, described how, particularly with the advent of the local food movement, building urban and peri-urban agriculture systems will increase the sustainability of urban food systems on the whole. By decreasing the steps in the supply chain (the steps from farm to plate) and increasing the number of urban gardens and markets that sell locally produced food, communities can become resilient to the effects of climate change and the economy.
Mary Njenga and Nancy Karanja, with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Department of Land Resource and Management and Agricultural Technology at the University of Nairobi, respectively, shared different methods of reclaiming waste and conserving energy resources that are gradually being put into practice in urban agriculture in the Nairobi area. More than 2,200 hectares of urban and peri-urban farmland in the greater Nairobi area are at least partially irrigated by urban wastewater, and household production of charcoal briquettes from biodegradable waste materials have saved Kibera slum residents up to 70 percent of money spent on cooking energy. However, there is still progress to be made – Njenga and Karanja found that of the approximate 640,000 metric tonnes of organic waste produced annually in Nairobi, only 2,500 tonnes are used to make compost.