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CITY FARMER


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Dear Cityfolk, here's why you need to grow food at home

We cityfolk consider ourselves to be very smart. Not so, discovers Gobar Times. The modern city has a garangutan appetite and is frightfully wasteful. It takes more than it gives. It ingests tonnes and tonnes of cereals, meat, vegetables and fruits grown in rural areas far and wide; chomps, chews and digests all that foodstuff; converts some of it into human energy; burps, and then spews the remaining all out as organic garbage and sewage. Nutrients in this waste that should have been recycled back to the land that produced the food, is instead dumped into and sealed in landfills or leaked into rivers. Smart idea?

Vanishing croplands
With more and more people heading towards urban areas and the number of cities increasing dramatically, something will have to be done about these wasteful consumption habits.

It is estimated that by 2030, 60 per cent of the world's population will live in cities. During the rural-urban population shift the cities have become supermarkets of employment, technology and processors of agriculture produce. Precious farmlands are being lost all over the world to these ever expanding cities. Who will feed these millions of cityfolk?

Before the railroads,the internal combustion engine, cold storage,perishable foods had to be produced within the city limits itself.

City as an ecosystem
In a healthy ecosystem, nutrients are largely recycled. The urban ecosystem, however, is a dead end.That means depletion of resources in areas outside the city and poisoning of places within it. Writes Toni Nelson, a researcher at the World Watch Institute in Washington, "This massive shifting of nutrients from rural to urban areas has already diminished the vitality of many of the planet's most productive croplands, grazing lands, and fisheries, and the process could accelerate as more and more of the human population concentrates in cities in the coming decades. It is also creating a dilemma: how to feed the growing number of people who are far removed form their main sources of food, without unbalancing and collapsing the ecosystems on which those people ultimately depend."

That’s where Urban Agriculture (UA) helps. UA puts vacant unused urban land to good productive use. All the rubbish like discarded containers, empty tins, plastic bags, styrofoam boxes along with unutilised terraces, rooftops and balconies become the 'fields' on which crops can be grown. Biodegradable waste becomes organic fertiliser after composting. That means less garbage, less pollution and more food. Besides producing affordable nutritious foodstuff for the urban poor in developing countries, UA also generates more employment within the city. Smart idea!

For the rich, growing your own food is in part a luxury and a welcome change from supermarket shopping. But for the poor, it is often a necessity.

Agriculture, an urban invention?
Cities and farming have an ancient relationship. The idea of farming in cities might seem strange initially to our urban ears. In the classic The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs argues that agriculture is actually an urban invention, developed in cities which were first founded as centres of trade. As the majority of people who arrive in the city become part of large squatter settlements within the city limits, it is challenging city managers to assist the newcomers with jobs, shelter, social services, and proper environment. That’s why urban cultivation has been rediscovered in developing world cities, in recent years.

p667_1.jpg (7633 bytes)Toni Nelson in the World Watch Magazine again, "Political leaders have been slow to recognise and respond to this dilemma. But in many cities residents are not waiting. Both with and without official sanction, millions of people are now producing food right where they live–in empty lots, on rooftops, and in their own backyards." Estimates say that as many as 200 million people are engaged in UA the world over. Half of Latin American cities and 40 per cent of African ones are involved in urban agriculture. In Russia, 72% of all urban households raise food and in China, the 14 largest cities produce around 85 per cent of their vegetables.

Want to be a city farmer?

Why farm the city?
To mitigate the two most intractable problems facing Third World cities — poverty and waste management.

dot.gif (88 bytes)LESS FOOD MILES: Cities import food products at great distances, thereby increasing energy use and decreasing nutrition. Growing food in the city reduces the food miles from the land to the mouth.p67_2.jpg (12671 bytes)

dot.gif (88 bytes)GREATER FOOD SECURITY: City
produce supplements rural agriculture and helps avoid food shortages. A step towards sustainable food management.

dot.gif (88 bytes)LESS WASTE: Cities produce a lot of solid and liquid organic waste. This resource can be recycled to grow food, thus reducing garbage and pollution in the city.

dot.gif (88 bytes)MORE INCOME: Poor families can supplement their income by practising urban agriculture and middle class families can look to it as a form of business.

dot.gif (88 bytes)GOOD FOR THE SOUL: Believe it or not, but gardening at home has been known to strengthen family ties. Thanks to community farming in the city, neighbourhoods have become socially cohesive and crime has reduced. 

 

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