City Farming is Good for a Green Economy
By Isaiah Esipisu
Talk of a green city – literally, and Rio de Jenairo, Brazil will present itself as a perfect example. Different types of fruit-baring trees sandwiched between unending closely packed skyscrapers on both sides of separated city streets reveal a cool natural and relaxing environment.
The evergreen lawns within the city centre also filled with trees matches the beautiful hills visible through horizons of buildings viewed from different directions. Despite the unending traffic jams within the streets, Rio de Jenairo can be considered to be an environment friendly city – quite literally. Coincidentally, the city is hosting the United Nations’ famous Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio +20. Yet, one of the important themes of the conference is focusing on the green economy, and sustainable development.
During one of major side events alongside the international negotiations conference – organized by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) addressed the issue of food and the city, emphasising on the urban – rural linkage for food and nutrition security.
“One interesting observation is that in relation to tree dynamics in peri-urban areas which we’ve noticed from agroforestry perspective is that many of these areas particularly in the tropics have been transformed into agroforests,” said Dennis Garrity, the former Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).
“Such areas are currently producing fruits and vegetables, fuelwood, timber and other tree commodities that are in demand especially within the same urban areas,” he added.
However, in cities like Rio de Jenairo, fruits from trees growing between streets are open for public consumption, a fact that experts at the UN conference said had great importance fto the city dwellers in terms of nutritional values.
But in other cities where farmers have intensified urban farming particularly in pei-urban areas, such tree products are a good source of income.
“It is interesting that one of these rapidly growing systems of agroforestry is the market demand for higher value products. In many cities and city environs, it is the demand that stimulates farmers to intensify tree crop production, thus creating the diversity of agroforestry systems in places where it never existed,” said the former ICRAF chief.
He cited examples of cities in developing countries such as Nairobi’s hinterlands in Kenya, Jakarta in Indonesia, Kampala in Uganda and many other areas where city farming and tree growing within city centres is intensifying.
Other players at the event included the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), International Partners for Sustainable Agriculture (IPSA) and the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI).
“Food security and cities are both priority theme areas of the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication,” reiterated Constance Neely also from ICRAF. “New pressures of urbanisation, rural migration, climate change and economic volatility will impact the sustainability of domestic food supply in all regions, but with special challenges in developing countries,” she added.
According to Alexander Müller Assistant Director General, Natural Resource Management and Environment at FAO, different organizations in such a multilateral forums like the Rio +20 have different issues to address ranging from food, biodiversity, calories, among others, but all of them boil down to one issue, which is green environment.
“We have to find solutions that have global objectives but can be operationalised at a local reality. We also have to define new objectives with global objectives but with local realities,” said Müller.
He observed that in Lagos Nigeria for example, the city is expected to grow by 400 per cent in the next 40 years, thus exposing bigger challenges. “Climate change will act as a multiplier of the already existing challenges. We must therefore ensure that we have sustainability of food security, and sound ecosystems,” said Müller.
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Read more blogs on ICRAF events at RIO+20
Edited by Yvonne Otieno
Isaiah Esipisu is a freelance journalist who was contracted by ICRAF to write this story.