Eunice Njoroge (2011-2014), MA, Univ. of Ottawa

MA, Major Research Paper (International & Public Affairs) Urban agriculture as a livelihood for Urban Poor: Opportunities, Obstacles, and Policy Implications for sub-Saharan African Cities.


Urban Agriculture (UA) serves as an essential livelihood strategy for urban households across Sub-Saharan Africa. In the context of worsened economic conditions triggered by the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) of the 1990s, and rapid urbanization witnessed over the past 20 years; there has been increased rural to urban migration across African cities, diminished economic opportunities and consequently rising urban unemployment and poverty. The poor urban dwellers residing in informal settlements have resorted to UA as a way to ameliorate against the growing food insecurity and to generate income to meet their other household needs such as healthcare, education and housing.
In spite of the benefits of UA to poor households, they face obstacles such as prohibitive local policies preventing access to public land the most need resource for this practice. Furthermore severe weather conditions compounded by poor infrastructure are threats to the potential of UA to meet the livelihood needs of the urban poor.
The purpose of this paper is to make a contribution to existing studies, by analyzing the general trends in UA across Sub-Saharan Africa, to uncover the major issues which policy-makers ought to pay attention to, in order to promote viable urban farming among the lowest socio-economic group across the region. To achieve this objective, the paper first examines the contribution of UA to urban households, then goes further to reveal the policy and environmental obstacles to UA. This research paper thus makes a contribution to the broader topic of sustainable livelihoods, which is key to Africa’s long-term development.
The key findings of this study are first, UA does make a contribution to the livelihoods of the low income groups residing in urban areas, who have no formal employment, this comes in the form of meeting their nutritional needs and in some cases provides a means of income generation. Secondly, in many cities, UA faces major obstacles in the form of prohibitive laws which makes access to land difficult. Thirdly, UA provides some benefits to the urban environment in the form of producing green areas that regulate humidity, conserve soil as well as produces recyclable organic waste. The paper concludes by providing policy interventions in three broad areas namely: land use, food security and agriculture and; environment and health.


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