WINDHOEK: Africa’s urban population is growing faster than that of any other region, but many of its cities are not keeping pace with the increasing demand for food that comes with that growth.
A new publication issued last week by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) indicated that policymakers need to act now to ensure that African cities will be ‘green’ enough to meet their nutrition and income needs in a sustainable way.
The publication, ‘Growing greener cities in Africa’, is the first status report on African urban and peri-urban horticulture – the home, school, community and market gardens that produce fruits and vegetables in and around the continent’s cities.
The report drew on surveys and case studies from 31 countries across the African continent, and makes recommendations on how cities can better prepare to face the rapidly increasing demand for food and other basic amenities.
Many African countries have recorded strong, sustained economic growth over the past decade, leading to more urbanisation and raising hopes of a new era of shared prosperity. But increasingly, urban areas also draw people in search of a way out of rural poverty, only to find little, if any, improvement in their lives.
“The challenge of achieving a zero hunger world – in which everyone is adequately nourished and all food systems are resilient – is as urgent in African cities as it is in rural areas,” reads the foreword by FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Modibo Traoré.
He said African policymakers need to act now to steer urbanisation from its current, unsustainable path towards healthy, ‘greener’ cities which ensure food and nutrition security, decent work and income and a clean environment for all their citizens.
The book was released in advance of the sixth session of the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy, taking place from 01 to 07 September this year.
The forum was established by the UN to examine one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.
The publication voiced particular concern about the future of market gardening – the irrigated, commercial production of fruit and vegetables in designated or other urban areas.
Market gardening is the single-most important source of locally-grown fresh produce in 10 out of 27 countries surveyed, and the number two source in six other countries. But market gardening has grown with little official recognition, regulation or support.
In some cities, it is becoming unsustainable: to maximize returns, market gardeners have increased the use of pesticides and polluted water.
The publication urged national governments and city administrations to work together with growers, processors, suppliers, vendors and others to give market gardens and urban and peri-urban agriculture the political, logistical and educational support necessary for sustainable development.