A case study approach to the assessment of urban agriculture in the greater Edendale area, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Ghebremicael, Ghezae Kibreab.
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Migration from rural to urban areas has characterized the South African population in the last quarter of the 20th century. More recently, internal urban growth itself has contributed to the rapid growth of cities. This rapid population increase in towns and cities has resulted in a range of social and environmental problems. Food insecurity is one such problem, it is contended, that could be addressed by the more wide spread development of urban agriculture (UA). The literature review helped the researcher to understand the problems and potential of UA. For the purposes of this study , UA is defined as the growing of plants , tree crops and raising of livestock within and at peri-urban areas. It focuses specifically on the 'community' type ventures rather than that associated with individual households. UA is an effective and efficient way of converting urban waste land and underutilized resources into food products , generate income and create jobs . The literature review and the case studies underlined the importance of UA to supplement household income and address issue of food security. However, the activity has been largely overlooked by local government, policy makers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It was also realized that UA is not a widespread or common practice in the cities of South Africa although the majority of the urban populations are poor due to past apartheid policy, rapid urbanization and the relatively slow growth of the economy as a whole. Against the above background, this study focused on socio-economic analysis of vegetable production in the study area by identifying and examining the role played and potential socio-economic and environmental importance of UA in the Greater Edendale Area (GEA). The study was conducted in the GEA particularly in three vegetable gardens, namely, the African Tree Centre (ATC), the Edendale Lay Ecumenical Centre (ELEC) and the Willow Fountain Centre (WFC). Primary data were collected through using structured interviews, key informant interviews , personal observation and through a literature review and the consultation of documents and records from the organizations surveyed. Agricultural activities in general and UA in particular in the study area were limited. Production at present is also low. However, the production of vegetables and fruits and the raising of poultry do relatively well when compared to other UA activities. Very few people in the study area were practising UA because of the lack of suitable land set aside for the purpose, lack of equipment and lack of financial and technical support. The initial cost of starting community based UA was found to be high. This situation has limited the number of urban farmers. If people are able to meet the start up costs, they can provide the urban poor with fresh and affordable produce. ln addition, the lack of information and awareness, in relation to the actual and potential benefit of UA, has limited its spread in the study area. It is also possible to optimize the capacity of UA with limited inputs. High production per hectare is possible and is well suited to low-income families and it allows women, who constitute the majority of urban farmers, to participate. The young, the old and the unemployed are other potential beneficiaries. However, lack of recognition, and cultural biases (i.e, many urban managers and policy makers think that allowing UA in cities 'ruralises' them of its activities hinder the realization of the potential role of UA. Therefore, integration of UAin the plans, policies and activities of stakeholders, particularly urban planners, city administrations, NGOs, local universities, extension and credit organizations, and community based organizations (CBOs) should be a priority issue. Strategies to ensure a higher priority for UA need to be carefully articulated.
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