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Urban agriculture and sustainable urban development : a case study of Nairobi, Kenya Hughes, Claire Ashley


Agricultural development has historically focused on rural areas and the needs of rural populations, it has virtually ignored cities. Indeed, farming was an activity perceived to be 'traditional' and not befitting modern concepts of urban development. Nevertheless, urban agriculture has persisted and expanded in Third World cities to reduce hunger and malnutrition amongst the urban poor. Urban agriculture is documented as occurring in numerous cities throughout the developing world as a 'survival strategy'. This study takes urban agriculture beyond 'survival' and evaluates urban agriculture for its contribution to the development of sustainable cities. Increasingly, finding ways to achieve sustainable development is becoming the challenge for planners. Sustainable development calls for an integrated approach to the problems of Third World Cities. Social, ecological and economic issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner: widespread environmental damage is often symptomatic of social and economic problems. This study examines the background literature to sustainable development and urban agriculture to find positive links between them. I use the city of Nairobi, Kenya as my study site. Urban agriculture in Nairobi has already been adopted by small NGOs through development projects. Their projects target a small number of cultivators and provide them with technical assistance. Meanwhile hundreds of other 'urban farmers' continue to cultivate without any outside assistance. What if any, additional benefits does the incorporation of urban agriculture into a development project bring the farmers? This research answers that question by using the City of Nairobi, as a case study and adopting a comparative approach to the sampling method Prior to developing my survey an extensive literature review, meetings with government officials, UN workers, rural farm managers and project leaders helped develop a contextual framework to evaluate urban agriculture. To determine the advantages of project assisted cultivation my study examines three urban agriculture projects facilitated by two NGOs - the Undugu Society of Kenya and the Help Self-Help Center. Fifty-five cultivators were chosen for study out of a total population of 200. Because it would be difficult, if not impossible, to determine the total number of cultivators farming without project assistance, a control group of 'non-project' farmers representing one-third of the 'project' sample were selected for comparison. I used a questionnaire presented to the cultivators to assess the strengths and weaknesses of current practices and to determine the contribution of urban agriculture to sustainable urban development. Meetings and discussions have shown that there is a growing awareness of the benefits of urban agriculture, yet, it still goes unrecognized by development planners and government officials. I provide recommendations as to how current practices can be improved and how policy can support urban agriculture. Currently, policy, land use regulation, and general mismanagement of environmental resources are restricting the ability of urban agriculture to expand and flourish. Dedicated policy and programmes would expand the direct and indirect benefits of urban farming to improve the livelihood of urban residents and to improve the health and sustainability of urban centers.

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