Farming the cities, feeding an urban future

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

As people move from rural to urban settings in search of economic opportunities, urban agriculture is becoming an important provider of both food and employment, according to researchers with the Worldwatch Institute. “Urban agriculture is providing food, jobs, and hope in Nairobi, Kampala, Dakar, and other cities across sub-Saharan Africa,” said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of the Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project. “In some cases, urban farmers are providing important inputs, such as seed, to rural farmers, dispelling the myth that urban agriculture helps feed the poor and hungry only in cities.”

The United Nations projects that up to 65 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from around 50 percent today. The rate of urban migration is particularly high in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where inadequate urban infrastructure struggles to keep up with the large influx of people. “Although most of the world’s poor and hungry remain in rural areas, hunger is migrating with people into urban areas,” said Brian Halweil, co-director of the Nourishing the Planet project.

Currently, an estimated 800 million people worldwide are engaged in urban agriculture, producing 15–20 percent of the world’s food. However, this activity occurs mainly in Asia, making it critical to place more worldwide emphasis on this vital sector. In Africa, 14 million people migrate from rural to urban areas each year, and studies suggest that an estimated 35–40 million Africans living in cities will need to depend on urban agriculture to meet their food requirements in the future.

“Urban agriculture is an important aspect of the development movement as it has the potential to address some of our most pressing challenges, including food insecurity, income generation, waste disposal, gender inequality, and urban insecurity“ said Nancy Karanja, a Professor at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and a State of the World 2011 contributing author.

Organizations such as Urban Harvest and others are working across the African continent to enhance urban agricultural efforts. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), a Florida-based organization, has helped farmers build gardens using old tires and other “trash” to create plant beds. And the group Harvest of Hope has helped organize urban Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in Cape Town, South Africa, purchasing excess produce from city gardens and redistributing it in schools in the area.

These projects are not only helping to provide fresh sources of food for city dwellers, but also providing a source of income, a tool to empower women, and a means of protecting the environment, among other benefits.

According to Nourishing the Planet, urban agriculture provides three important advantages that are evident in successful projects across the African continent:

  • Close to home (and market). Produce from urban farms and gardens does not need to travel as far as produce grown in rural areas to reach the dining table, which helps to reduce production costs, post-harvest waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. This is also helpful in situations when supply chains from rural areas have been interrupted and cities are unable to receive food imports.
  • Empowering women and building communities. In Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, Urban Harvest has helped women build “vertical farms” simply by using sacks of soil in which to grow vegetables. Using these gardening activities, the women share business ideas and technical know-how, empowering each other. The community gardens also act as a forum where community members can exchange ideas and discuss community issues and problems.
  • Improving urban environments. Faced with limited resources, urban farmers are adept at utilizing urban waste streams to strengthen their soil and grow their crops. Garbage is used as compost or fodder for livestock, and nutrient-rich waste water is used for irrigation. By re-using these waste products, urban farms help to reduce the amount of refuse clogging landfills as well as the amount of water used in cities. Community gardens also provide an aesthetically pleasing space and help improve the air quality in urban areas.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

 

Farming the cities, feeding an urban future

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

As people move from rural to urban settings in search of economic opportunities, urban agriculture is becoming an important provider of both food and employment, according to researchers with the Worldwatch Institute. “Urban agriculture is providing food, jobs, and hope in Nairobi, Kampala, Dakar, and other cities across sub-Saharan Africa,” said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of the Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project. “In some cases, urban farmers are providing important inputs, such as seed, to rural farmers, dispelling the myth that urban agriculture helps feed the poor and hungry only in cities.”

The United Nations projects that up to 65 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from around 50 percent today. The rate of urban migration is particularly high in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where inadequate urban infrastructure struggles to keep up with the large influx of people. “Although most of the world’s poor and hungry remain in rural areas, hunger is migrating with people into urban areas,” said Brian Halweil, co-director of the Nourishing the Planet project.

Currently, an estimated 800 million people worldwide are engaged in urban agriculture, producing 15–20 percent of the world’s food. However, this activity occurs mainly in Asia, making it critical to place more worldwide emphasis on this vital sector. In Africa, 14 million people migrate from rural to urban areas each year, and studies suggest that an estimated 35–40 million Africans living in cities will need to depend on urban agriculture to meet their food requirements in the future.

“Urban agriculture is an important aspect of the development movement as it has the potential to address some of our most pressing challenges, including food insecurity, income generation, waste disposal, gender inequality, and urban insecurity“ said Nancy Karanja, a Professor at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and a State of the World 2011 contributing author.

Organizations such as Urban Harvest and others are working across the African continent to enhance urban agricultural efforts. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), a Florida-based organization, has helped farmers build gardens using old tires and other “trash” to create plant beds. And the group Harvest of Hope has helped organize urban Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in Cape Town, South Africa, purchasing excess produce from city gardens and redistributing it in schools in the area.

These projects are not only helping to provide fresh sources of food for city dwellers, but also providing a source of income, a tool to empower women, and a means of protecting the environment, among other benefits.

According to Nourishing the Planet, urban agriculture provides three important advantages that are evident in successful projects across the African continent:

  • Close to home (and market). Produce from urban farms and gardens does not need to travel as far as produce grown in rural areas to reach the dining table, which helps to reduce production costs, post-harvest waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. This is also helpful in situations when supply chains from rural areas have been interrupted and cities are unable to receive food imports.
  • Empowering women and building communities. In Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, Urban Harvest has helped women build “vertical farms” simply by using sacks of soil in which to grow vegetables. Using these gardening activities, the women share business ideas and technical know-how, empowering each other. The community gardens also act as a forum where community members can exchange ideas and discuss community issues and problems.
  • Improving urban environments. Faced with limited resources, urban farmers are adept at utilizing urban waste streams to strengthen their soil and grow their crops. Garbage is used as compost or fodder for livestock, and nutrient-rich waste water is used for irrigation. By re-using these waste products, urban farms help to reduce the amount of refuse clogging landfills as well as the amount of water used in cities. Community gardens also provide an aesthetically pleasing space and help improve the air quality in urban areas.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

 

Fishing for Sustainable Practices to Conserve Fisheries

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Global fish production has reached an all-time high, according to Nourishing the Planet’s latest research for the Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs Online publication. Aquaculture, or fish farming—once a minor contributor to total fish harvest—increased 50-fold between the 1950s and 2008 and now contributes nearly half of all fish produced worldwide.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization an estimated 53 percent of fisheries are considered fully exploited—harvested to their maximum sustainable levels—with no room for expansion in production. Population growth and a higher demand for dietary protein are putting increasing pressure on depleted stocks and threatened ecosystems.

Increased farming of large predators, such as salmon and tuna, has led to overfishing of prey fish—including anchoveta and herring, which are commonly used as fishmeal. It generally takes at least three kilograms of feed to produce one kilogram of salmon. The shrinking of the numbers of prey species threatens the entire food chain, putting further stress on large predator stocks.

Depleting fisheries also negatively affect the economies of developing countries, home to the nearly 60 percent of the world’s fishers that are classified as small-scale commercial or subsistence fishers. In Africa, an estimated 100 million people depend on fish from inland sources, such as lakes and rivers, for income as well as protein and much-needed micronutrients like vitamin A, calcium, iron, and zinc. But coastal fisheries across West Africa have declined by up to 50 percent in the last 30 years due to significant pressure from large industrial fleets.

Fisheries also provide important ecosystem services, such as storing and recycling nutrients and absorbing pollutants. We need to make ecological restoration as much a goal as meeting the growing global demand for seafood. And we must move away from mainstream approaches that focus narrowly on short-term profit and boosting production to more sustainable strategies that help meet demand and support fishing communities.

Around the world, fisheries co-managed by local authorities and fishers themselves are emerging as a promising solution to replenishing depleting fish stocks.

In 2007, a group of Gambian women oyster harvesters formed the TRY Women’s Oyster Harvesting Association. They collectively agreed to close one tributary in their oyster territories for an entire year and to shorten their harvest season by two months. These practices may seem difficult in the short run, but they pay off over time, securing incomes and nutrition in their communities.

Focusing on fisheries can help boost incomes and strengthen food security, while protecting the ecosystems on which millions of people worldwide depend.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Fishing for Sustainable Practices to Conserve Fisheries

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Global fish production has reached an all-time high, according to Nourishing the Planet’s latest research for the Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs Online publication. Aquaculture, or fish farming—once a minor contributor to total fish harvest—increased 50-fold between the 1950s and 2008 and now contributes nearly half of all fish produced worldwide.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization an estimated 53 percent of fisheries are considered fully exploited—harvested to their maximum sustainable levels—with no room for expansion in production. Population growth and a higher demand for dietary protein are putting increasing pressure on depleted stocks and threatened ecosystems.

Increased farming of large predators, such as salmon and tuna, has led to overfishing of prey fish—including anchoveta and herring, which are commonly used as fishmeal. It generally takes at least three kilograms of feed to produce one kilogram of salmon. The shrinking of the numbers of prey species threatens the entire food chain, putting further stress on large predator stocks.

Depleting fisheries also negatively affect the economies of developing countries, home to the nearly 60 percent of the world’s fishers that are classified as small-scale commercial or subsistence fishers. In Africa, an estimated 100 million people depend on fish from inland sources, such as lakes and rivers, for income as well as protein and much-needed micronutrients like vitamin A, calcium, iron, and zinc. But coastal fisheries across West Africa have declined by up to 50 percent in the last 30 years due to significant pressure from large industrial fleets.

Fisheries also provide important ecosystem services, such as storing and recycling nutrients and absorbing pollutants. We need to make ecological restoration as much a goal as meeting the growing global demand for seafood. And we must move away from mainstream approaches that focus narrowly on short-term profit and boosting production to more sustainable strategies that help meet demand and support fishing communities.

Around the world, fisheries co-managed by local authorities and fishers themselves are emerging as a promising solution to replenishing depleting fish stocks.

In 2007, a group of Gambian women oyster harvesters formed the TRY Women’s Oyster Harvesting Association. They collectively agreed to close one tributary in their oyster territories for an entire year and to shorten their harvest season by two months. These practices may seem difficult in the short run, but they pay off over time, securing incomes and nutrition in their communities.

Focusing on fisheries can help boost incomes and strengthen food security, while protecting the ecosystems on which millions of people worldwide depend.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Getting “More Crop Per Drop” to Strengthen Global Food Security

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Increasing demand for water continues to put a strain on available water sources, threatening the livelihood of millions of small-scale farmers who depend on water for their crops. At a time when one in eight people lack access to safe water, Nourishing the Planet points to low-cost, small-scale innovations to better manage this vital resource.  These efforts are increasing the availability of water for crops and helping farmers improve crop productivity and become more food-secure.

Seventy percent of the world’s freshwater is used for irrigation, and global water resources are drying up as climate change takes hold and population growth continues. 60 percent of the world’s hungry people live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—most of them on small farms—where they do not have a reliable source of water to produce sufficient yields. Only 4 percent of the cultivated land in sub-Saharan Africa is currently equipped for irrigation. 95 percent of cropland in the region depends on rain, and climate scientists predict that rainfall on the continent will decline in the coming decades. But there is great potential to expand irrigation with small-scale solutions.

The Green Revolution of the 1960s led to a near tripling of global grain production and a doubling of the world’s irrigated area. It also, however, demanded vast quantities of water. Previous agricultural investments have focused narrowly on increasing crop yields, while there has been relatively little research and investment in ways to make better use of scarce water resources. Affordable innovations that boost agricultural development and meet the increasing demand on already-scarce water resources while also mitigating the impacts of climate change, are more important than ever.

Nourishing the Planet recommends three models for effective water management that have the potential for getting ‘more crop per drop’:

Human-powered pumps. The foot-operated treadle pump enables 2.3 million farmers in the developing world—some 250,000 in sub-Saharan Africa—to boost crop productivity, improve harvest reliability, and raise incomes. The original $35 version can irrigate 0.2 hectares with ground water; newer models can irrigate up to 0.8 hectares and cost no more than $140 installed. These devices already generate $37 million a year in profits and wages. In Zambia, International Development Enterprises worked with farmers to determine the most effective type of pump. The Mosi-O-Tunya pump is manufactured locally and delivers 25 percent more water per second than older versions.

Affordable micro-irrigation. A suite of low-cost drip irrigation technologies is helping farmers use limited water supplies more efficiently, often doubling water productivity. These systems deliver water directly to the plant roots through perforated pipes or tubes, and can come in the form of $5 bucket kits, $25 drum kits, or $100 shiftable drip systems that irrigate up to 0.2 hectares. Solar-powered micro-irrigation drip systems are also making their debut in West Africa. One study found that after a year of using these systems, villagers in Benin had higher incomes and protein in their diets. Children attended school more often, since they no longer needed to spend their day collecting water.

More effective use of rainfall. Conservation tillage methods that leave the soil intact; timely weeding and mulching; and planting vegetative barriers all help to maximize green water, or rainwater stored in the soil and plants as moisture. Rainwater harvesting using small earthen dams and other methods also helps maximize rainwater utility. Supplementing these practices with irrigation may produce optimal results. In Kenya, Maasai women are working with the U.N. Environment Programme and the World Agroforestry Centre to build rooftop catchment tanks, which provide water for their households and save women time collecting water.

Satisfying the water requirements of the future, while also coping with population growth, increasing consumption, persistent poverty, and a changing climate, will take a commitment well beyond what has materialized to date. Support—and research and investment—from governments, development agencies, and international and national NGOs can help make such technologies more accessible to smallholder farmers.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

To watch the one minute book trailer click HERE.

 

 

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