Urban and peri-urban farming expands the economic base of the city through production, processing, packaging, and marketing of consumable products.
This then results in an increase in entrepreneurial activities and the creation of job opportunities as well as in food costs reduction and products of better quality.
Urban farming provides employment, income and access to food for town dwellers and contributes to relieve chronic and emergency food insecurity.
Chronic food insecurity refers to less affordable food and growing urban poverty, while emergency food insecurity relates to breakdowns in the chain of food distribution.
The down town farmers plays an important role in making food more affordable and in providing emergency supplies of food.
Social benefits that have emerged from urban agricultural practices are better health and nutrition, increased income, employment, food security within the household and community social life.
The farming can be seen as a means of improving the livelihood of people living in and around cities. Taking part in such practices is seen mostly as informal activity, but in many cities where inadequate, unreliable and irregular access to food is a recurring problem, urban agriculture has been a positive response to tackling food concerns. Households and small communities take advantage of vacant land and contribute not only to their household food needs but also the needs of their resident city.
“Urban farmers in Tanzania who engage in cultivation of crops within the urban areas shall take measures to ensure that it does not cause environmental degradation,” Prof. Alphonce Kyessy of Ardhi University a seminars for urban farmers in Dar es Salaam recently.
He said that farmers in urban areas have to ensure that the use of chemicals and fertilisers does not cause pollution of ground water sources or surface water sources including dams, rivers, wells, aquifers or any other water source or damage to soils, grass, trees, plants or any other vegetative cover.
“No cultivation on or close to ecologically sensitive areas including the banks of any naturally defined stream or river, wetland, aquifer or any natural watercourse is undertaken,” he said.
The Prof says that urban farming contributes to urban food security and nutrition, attracts employment – both men and women, supplements food and income – especially the low income households, Utilises idle resources – land, labour, waste, beautify the environment, creates an aesthetic environment and also enhances municipal tax base if formalised.
He also pointed out that Urban Agriculture exists in most urban areas in the developed and developing countries, as an economic activity, it provides income and employment opportunities to the urban population, and a reliable supplementary source of food supply to urban dwellers at affordable prices. As a land use, well-planned urban agriculture creates a pleasant greenery scene.
“.....Although urban agriculture is considered an important component of sustainable development, improperly practiced urban agriculture conflict with other urban land uses and leads to land degradation, water pollution and is a threat to health and safety...” He says
Adding “The government shall designate special areas within planning areas whereby people will be granted legal rights to engage themselves in agriculture activities”
He underscores that the government and local urban authorities (LUAs) shall take measures to ensure that food supply is of desired quality, the government and LUAs shall promote food production systems within urban and peri-urban areas of which will increase application of research to boost food availability, accessibility and adequacy.
The Prof disclosed key issues that are facing urban farming which including poor handling including packaging of food and inadequate marketing facilities, poor transport and storage facilities, poor hygiene and sanitation especially at food out let markets and inadequate information on food prices.
Other Key problems are iinadequate access to modern technologies, poor food preparation and storage technology, high level of wastage of foodstuff especially perishables and lack of incubators to support technology development and transfer.
In order to ensure the success of the urban farming the government should do the following “government shall boost investments in appropriate technology and energy development that is crucial for use of food technology, encourage and support private sector initiatives for investing in food processing technology, institutional arrangement in monitoring and supervision of food availability and suitability as well as create good links between LUAs and institutions dealing with issues of food security and safety”
“Using high-density urban farming, as for instance with vertical farms or stacked greenhouses, many environmental benefits can be achieved on a city-wide scale that would be impossible otherwise, these systems do not only provide food, but also produce potable water from waste water, and can recycle organic waste back to energy and nutrients. At the same time, they can reduce food-related transportation to a minimum while providing fresh food for large communities in almost any climate” George Katyega an environmentalist said in an interview
Kayega also says that lack of security of tenure also acts as a preventive for farming due to the uncertainty in the use length of the land of which urban agriculture has been criticized by those who believe that industrial farm production can produce food at larger volumes more efficiently can be the obstacle to see urban farming growing.
“A major argument is whether urban farming alone is very intensively on small land areas could replace land extensive production in rural areas which produce the bulk of our food products. Yet hunger persists in both urban and rural areas, despite a subsidized industrial agriculture. The degree to which urban agriculture can address these food needs systemically is undetermined, though there are indications in some communities that it is an important source of food” He says
However, The Dar es Salaam based Tanzania Food Gardening Network (TaFoGa)’s Secretary, Fred Njegeja says that was conceived in 2011 facilitated by Sustainable Cities international Network Africa Programme (SCINAP) to connect the urban agriculture that exists in Dar es Salaam.
Njegeja also says that TaFoGa provided advices on how the network can enhance their ability to advocate the rights of the farmers.
“TaFoGa is a network made up of ten famer groups in Dar es Salaam and has developed a relationship with municipal agriculture departments of Dar es Salaam so as to make sure that the urban farming are well promoted”