Breaking off the poverty chains: Urban farming in Nairobi, Kenya

Quite a number of us have practiced backyard farming: Rabbit keeping, vegetable/kitchen farming, poultry keeping and so forth in rural areas. These we keep as pets or even as a source of ready vegetables and meat for our daily consumption.

The rapid increase in urbanization and subsequent rise in urban food insecurity has resulted to the mushrooming of this kind of agriculture in urban centers with scholars naming it Urban Agriculture .In essence it translates to keeping animals and growing crops in the cities. It’s either conducted in the cities (intra urban) through ways like sack gardening or outside the cities confines (Peri urban) in green houses, on off-farm plots or on large acreage farmers.

A boost to this form of farming has come by from the support several national and international organizations who have showcased the venture as a good means for solving the problem of food insecurity in urban centers of developing world. This in turn has led to Kenyan agricultural researchers incorporating it as an important aspect in the Kenyan land policy.

So how important is urban farming?

According to Resources for Urban Agriculture Foundation (RUAF) come 2020, 75% of most of the populations in Africa, Asia and Latin America will be concentrated in the urban centers. A majority of these cities economies are at their developing stage which will then translate to rising of issues like unemployment, inadequate nutrition, food insecurity and buildup of wastes in urban centers soaring up. Urban farming comes in to help mitigate some of these issues through its various actors the likes of the urban poor, the women, the researchers and mid -level government officials.

Urban farming shows a lot of potential in:

  •  Ensuring food security and provision of necessary nutrition. Less transport costs to the markets are incurred which in turn offers a fair produce price to the poorest of the poor in the urban areas.
  •  Boosting the economic status of a family. Less money is spent in purchase of vegetables and there is notable barter exchange with other commodities.
  •  Social impacts to disadvantaged and marginalized members of the society. Women groups, orphans and immigrants by giving them decent livelihoods in urban areas.
  •  Researchers disseminating agricultural research to farmers as they are able to interact freely with them know their farming needs and develop new technologies  based on the specific needs identified.
  • Greening the cities. Treated waste water from sewers is used to irrigate farms while  waste vegetable matter  in municipal dump sites are used to provide organic compost in farms hence reducing pollution to these urban centers.

Research should be “bottom heavy”

In the video at the top of the post, Mary Njenga, an agricultural researcher in Nairobi, not only talks about her passion for urban farming and why she is glad of its incorporation in the land policy of Kenya. She also calls for a shift in the attitude and approach of researchers. “People are tired of researchers coming to take soil samples or crop samples, or yet another questionnaire”, she says. “Research should be bottom heavy. Innovation that researchers build, should come from the farmers.”

This blogpost was written by Emmie Kio, one of our social reporters.


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