GOVERNMENT and urban councils must do more to support urban and peri–urban agriculture as it can play a significant role in ensuring household food security.
The Food and Agriculture Organization defines urban and peri urban agriculture as the growing of plants and the raising of animals within and around cities.
Urban and peri -urban agriculture has been on the rise in the country over the years owing to rural-urban migration.
Unfortunately those who have made the great trek to the city have not found employment readily available forcing many families to engage in farming to supplement their incomes.
FAO notes that urban farmers in most cases operate without permits. Since it is officially “invisible”, the sector receives no public assistance or oversight in many cities.
Charles Dehwa chief executive of Knowledge Transfer Africa believes urban agriculture is here to stay and government and councils should now incorporate it in their plans.
“Urban agriculture has picked up over the years as the economy struggled and we have seen people growing maize and other group while other have gone into livestock such as goats and dairy. This is good as people have managed to supplement their income but also provide supplementary nutrients” said Dehwa.
He said there is an urgent need for urban councils to revisit by laws that restrict urban agriculture as they are now outdated and no longer fit for purpose.
“It’s good some of the councils have them realized that they cannot really hold back agriculture and are beginning to revise their laws. If you travel around areas like Waterfalls, Hatfield and Ruwa you become aware of the huge urban farming that is going.
What I would urge them and government do is regulate urban agriculture to ensure for instance chemicals used do not contaminate water bodies. Equally they must ensure owing to the climatic changes most cities are now affected by flooding so the urban farmer must be made aware of this”.
Studies have also shown that produce from urban farming is affordable because it requires transportation and refrigeration and consumers – especially low-income residents – enjoy easier access to fresh produce, greater choice and better prices.
Urban agriculture provides employment and incomes for poor women and other disadvantaged groups.
For instance Horticulture can generate one job every 100 sq m garden in production, input supply, marketing and value-addition from producer to consumer.
Harare City Council communications manager Michael Chideme said the local authority supported urban agriculture as long as it was sustainable and carried out at designated places.