Urban farming or urban agriculture is the growing of plants and the raising of livestock animals within and around towns, cities and metropolitan areas for food, other human needs or economic gain, including processing, marketing and distribution of the products (click here to read What is Agriculture?).
Statistical Data in Support of Urban Agriculture
– 50.46% of the world’s population in 2010 live in urban areas. This is projected to increase to 56.62 % in 2025 and 68.70% in 2050. (United Nations, 2009).
– 800 million people are engaged in urban agriculture worldwide and contribute to the food needs of the urban residents (Wikipedia, 2010).
– Low income urban residents spend between 40 to 60 percent of their income on food each year (Wikipedia, 2010); Poor people in poor countries generally spend a greater part of their income (50 – 70%) on food (RUAF Foundation, undated).
– Presently (2010) there are 21 cities in the world with population ranging from 10.49 M to 36.67 M. The top 10 largest cities are Tokyo in Japan, Delhi and Bombay in India, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Mexico City, New York-Newark in USA, Shanghai in China, Calcutta in India, Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Karachi, Pakistan. By 2025, the number of cities with population in excess of 10 million is expected to increase to 29 (United Nations, 2009). To sustain a city with such population, a minimum of 6,000 tons of food need to be imported daily (Wikipedia, 2010).
– By 2020, it is predicted that about 75% of all urban dwellers will be found in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is expected that by 2020, 85% of the poor in Latin America, and about 40-45% of those in Africa and Asia will be concentrated in towns and cities. (RUAF Foundation, undated).
– In Cagayan de Oro, urban farmers generally eat more vegetables than rural farmers of the same wealth class, and also more than the consumers who belong to the higher wealth class who prefer more meat (Potutan et al., 1999, cited by RUAF Foundation, undated).
– Horticultural crops have high yield potentials compared to other food crops and can provide up to 50 kg of fresh produce per sq. meter per year depending upon the technology applied (FAO, undated).
The growing of crops in cities is a component of urban farming. It includes the production of food products from different agricultural crops such as root and tuber crops (sweet potato, gabi, yam), vegetables (lettuce, malunggay, charantia), spices (hot pepper, lemon grass, green onion) and fruits (citrus, guava, banana); medicinal crops such as five-leaved chaste tree or lagundi, acapulko and sambong; and ornamental crops including foliage and flowering types and turf grasses.
The actual growing of crops may be done in locations inside the city (intra-urban) or in peripheries around the city (peri-urban). The activities may take place inside homelots (on-plot) or on land away from the residence (off-plot), on private land either owned or leased, or on public land such as in parks, conservation areas, along roads, streams and railways, or on semi-public land such as school grounds and hospitals. (RUAF Foundation, undated).
Within homelots urban farming can be practiced on the backyard, front yard, or in any vacant area outside of the residential building. The fences, walls, steps, balconies, terraces, decks and the roofs are also used for the same purpose.
The crops can be grown on the ground or in pots (container or pot gardening), employing various cropping systems and methods such as monocropping, multiple cropping, intensive agriculture and sustainable agriculture. Special techniques have been employed by those who have capital, such as tissue culture, hydroponics and greenhouse farming.
Benefits of Urban Farming
Multiple benefits can be achieved through urban farming. These include environmental restoration and enhancement, food security, expansion of economic base, social amelioration, energy efficiency and increase in the availability and quality of food. (Wikipedia, 2010).
For the urban dwellers, however, and especially the urban poor, the following are among the reasons why they should engage in urban farming:
1. The diverse number of horticultural crops allows year-round production.
2. Urban producers can achieve more efficient use of vacant land and space.
3. The growing of crops, processing and marketing can easily be combined with other household tasks, thus promoting efficient use of time.
4. Urban farming can be practiced to produce fresh and safe food for family consumption, with the surpluses to be marketed. In particular, leafy vegetables can be grown even in pots, in vacant spaces of the lot, and even on rooftops to supply the family’s daily needs, thus saving on expenditures.
5. The growing of high-value crops can be a means of self-employment. Small lots or portions of lots can generate substantial income within a short period with minimal capital, for example by utilizing them as plant nurseries.
Food and Agriculture Organization. undated. Urban and peri-urban agriculture. Retrieved September 7, 2010 from http://www.fao.org/unfao/bodies/COAG/COAG15/X0076e.htm.
Resource Centre on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF) Foundation. undated. What is urban agriculture? Retrieved September 7, 2010 from http://www.ruaf.org/node/512.
Resource Centre on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF) Foundation. Why is urban agriculture important? Retrieved September 9, 2010 from http://www.ruaf.org/node/513.
United Nations. 2009. World urbanization projects, the 2009 revision. Retrieved October 31, 2010 from http://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/index.htm.
Wikipedia. 2010. Urban agriculture. Retrieved September 7, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_agriculture.