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Urban Agriculture at MDPESA PDF Print E-mail
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The Urban Agriculture Programme (UAP) at the MDPESA seeks to enable deeper understanding of urban agriculture (UA) and provide mechanisms to enhance its benefits and at the same time provide tools with which to combat its negative impacts. The UA programme at MDP started in 2000 with the thrust of raising the level of awareness on urban agriculture amongst local government practioners and policy markers as it adopted the theme of integrating UA into urban planning and development. The programme has managed to accomplish a number of achievements which include studies in the region on the status of UA, land tenure planning and regularization, access to land for UA for the urban resource poor; information communication needs assessments; Anglophone Africa regional training on UA; creating and maintaining databases on UA; legislative and policy analysis; declaration by mayors on UA and Ministers conference on UA.


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Definition of Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture can be defined as the growing of plants and the raising of animals for food and other uses within urban and peri-urban areas, and related activities such as the production and delivery of inputs, and the processing and marketing of products. There are many forms of urban agriculture which include on-plot farming around the residential plot and off-plot which takes place on open spaces within the built up areas. Off-ploy UA is synonymous to intra-urban farming that takes place on the open spaces within the city.

The role of urban agriculture in the food supply of cities and towns, as a compliment to rural agriculture, is becoming an important issue in the SADC region economy. There is evidence that urban agriculture is increasing in many urban areas, sometimes dramatically so, particularly in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. Generally, poor families spend 60% or more of their income on food, whilst city dwellers pay 10-13% more of their income on food compared to rural inhabitants.

Urban agriculture is an important socio- economic activity for the urban poor particularly for the developing countries. The activity’s contribution to food security and income generation for the poor families is well recognised and evident from the body of available literature. Given that it is largely poverty driven (Mbiba, 1995), the deteriorating socio-economic environment in most developing countries coupled with the rapid rates of urbanisation are factors likely to push the magnitude of the activity to unprecedented levels in the near future. Formidable challenges associated with it now and in the future have to be addressed. Key amongst them is its impact on environmental sustainability.


Urban and peri-urban agriculture, incorporating production and livestock keeping, has become part of the food security system in the urban areas of most countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. In addition, urban agriculture is now an established strategy for sustaining livelihoods of urban populations. It directly provides food and indirectly generates household cash income through saving on food expenditure, employment and selling of surplus production. Urban agriculture expanded massively in the last twenty years in response to changes in the micro-economic environment characterised by poor economic performance resulting in increase in poverty levels in the urban areas. Until the mid-1990’s, few local authorities and central governments recognised urban agriculture as a legitimate land use. With increasing poverty in the urban areas, city planners and national policy makers now recognise the central role of urban and peri-urban agriculture in the wider urban economy. It is now generally recognised urban and peri-urban agriculture apart from contributing to household food security; it has a wide role in sustaining urban population in terms of poverty alleviation and contribution to the urban economic activities through processing and marketing of the produce. Most governments and local authorities now support urban agriculture and are seeking ways with which to facilitate sustainable, safe and profitable production. Urban agriculture and peri-urban agriculture have been incorporated into urban expansion plans for Dar-es-Salaam, Dodoma in Tanzania, Maputo in Mozambique (Mougeot, 2000). Active programmes exist in most cities in South Africa. In Zimbabwe, several cities and municipalities now have an accommodating approach to urban agriculture. The Ministry of Local Government and National Housing has pledged more land from acquired surrounding farms to local urban authorities for urban agriculture.


The expansion of urban agriculture is a worldwide phenomenon that has caught the attention of policy makers, activists and funding agencies as a new response to issues of food security, economic development, poverty alleviation, urban blight, waste recycling and environmental preservation. While this is the case, it is apparent that formal support for urban and peri-urban agriculture is still to be developed in Eastern and Southern Africa. Policy, legislation, institutional support and advisory services are yet to be designed in the majority of the urban areas and countries. These recent developments and acceptance of urban agriculture presents challenges for planning and managing the urban space for urban agriculture.




The specific objectives of the UA programme are to:

  1. Facilitate the integration of UA into urban planning and development programmes.
  2. Facilitate a shared vision of UA by key stakeholders in urban governance.
  3. Foster increased stakeholder participation in the formulation of decisions and implementation of programmes and projects in relation to UA policies and practices
  4. Disseminate knowledge, information and best practices on UA
  5. Facilitate the building of partnerships for the practice of sustainable UA between local governments, NGOs, CBOs and the private sector.
  6. Contribute to literature on UA by facilitating research, documentation and publication.


Various categories of organizations have benefited from the UAP at MDPESA. These include:

  1. Central government (Ministries of Agriculture, Local Government) through the provision of information and direct assistance in UA policy formulation

  2. Local authorities through information provision and direct assistance for UA policy formulation.

  3. NGOs through information sharing

  4. CSOs through being empowered by participating in the various projects on UA.

  5. Academics through information sharing and training of officials

  6. Researchers through participating in research activities and sharing information.

  7. Those practicing UA through being empowered by participating in the various projects on UA



Resources and Services at MDP on UA.

Various types of services and resources exist at MDP. These include:

  1. Databases

-         Bibliographic database

-         Experts database

-         Photographic

-         Donor

  1. Policy advice to municipalities and other organizations

  2. Research into various aspects of UA

UA Projects

In the past MDP has worked with IDRC, FAO, RUAF and other organizations to implement a number of projects. Some of these include:

  1. Political Economy of Urban Agriculture with IDRC

  2. Access to Land for Urban Agriculture Research in Kinindoni, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Uganda and Harare, Zimbabwe for IDRC.

  3. Peri-Urban Land tenure and UA for FAO

  4. Currently as part of RUAF MDP is working on the Cities Farming for the Future Programme (CFF). It is also working on the Urban Food Security programme for Southern Africa.


Over the past years, MDPESA has seen a phenomenal growth of the urban agriculture programme and has implemented the following as the core of the activities under UAP:

  • Research on the current status of urban agriculture in the region. This focused on information, communication and training needs in support of urban agriculture and the countries covered were Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The information gathered is currently being edited for the production of a working document

  • Research on peri-urban land tenure planning and regularization. This research was funded by FAO. The countries under this research were Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Uganda. The research report is available and is currently being edited for a working document

  • Studies on the political economy of urban and peri-urban agriculture covering five countries. The countries covered were Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda. The project was funded by the IDRC. This culminated in a regional workshop on the Political Economy of Urban Agriculture held at the end of February-March 2001 at the Bronte Hotel in Harare

  • As a result of the workshop, a research proposal on 'access to land for urban agriculture by the urban poor' was developed and is being implemented in three cities in different countries namely Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Kampala in Uganda, and Harare in Zimbabwe. Research teams have been put in place and have since been able to undertake research over the past two years. They produced their preliminary draft reports that are currently being widely disseminated through feedback workshops. They have also produced policy briefs on various aspects of accessing land for the urban agriculture by the urban poor.

  • Stakeholder forums for urban agriculture have been established in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. The forums are networks of people and or organizations (both public and private) who have an interest in urban agriculture either as direct beneficiaries, working with groups practicing UA or are affected by UA activities. The forum includes representatives of government (Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Tourism, Local Government), local authorities, NGOs, CSOs, academics, researchers, those practicing UA, and those working with UA practitioners. The objectives of the forums are to:

    • Discuss issues pertinent to UA in their country

    • Share experiences on UA in the country

    • Identify issues of concern for UA in the country

    • Lobby government and local authorities on issues of policy

  • In conjunction with the Resource Centre on Forestry and Agriculture (RUAF), MDP has developed various databases (bibliographic, photographic, organizations/institutions and individuals) on who is who in urban agriculture in the region, which was shown on national TV in Zimbabwe and Malawi with full acknowledgement.

  • Jointly with other stakeholders MDPESA has participated in the production of a video on urban agriculture

  • Facilitated debate and discussion on the role of urban agriculture in promoting economic growth, urban food security and employment creation through TV, radio and newsletters/newspapers.

  • Through the Urban Agriculture Programme, the MDPESA has been involved in and influenced policy on urban agriculture. In Zimbabwe, Mayors came up with and adopted the Nyanga Declaration, which creates a policy framework for pledges support for UA and recognizing its role in urban food security and employment creation. A bill is now before parliament and seeks to legitimize UA as a land use within the urban context.

  • A Minister's Conference on Urban Agriculture - Opportunities for Food Security and UA was held 28-29 August 2003 in Harare. Partnership with FARNPAN has considerably helped in the process of firmly establishing UA on the SADC regional policy agenda, and this was followed up and consolidated further through the Local Government Ministers’ on UA workshop which was jointly hosted by Ministry of Local Government in Zimbabwe and MDPESA. This conference was successfully conducted in August 2003 and culminated in the signing of the Harare Declaration on UA. It was attended by sixty-nine participants, with ministers and delegations from Malawi, Tanzania, Swaziland, Kenya and the hosts Zimbabwe. Other stakeholders like the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), FAO and UNDP also attended. The main output of the workshop was the Declaration by the heads of delegations in attendance who pledged to work to ensure that urban agriculture would be properly organized in the region.

  • The programme has facilitated city-to-city UA exchange visits between Redcliff (Zimbabwe), which is involved in mushroom production, and Entebbe (Uganda) involved in poultry.

  • Working with Botswana to develop an urban agriculture policy.



The impact of the UAP in the region has been felt at various levels.

  1. Policy formulation – the programme has had a direct impact on the formulation of policies on UA. The formulation of the policy for Botswana is at an advanced stage.

  2. Legislative reviews have resulted in a better understanding of the legal environment within which UA operates. The legal audit carried out in Zimbabwe has resulted in urban local authorities in that country being more aware of their legal obligations in facilitating UA activities.

  3. The various studies carried out in the region on the state of UA, peri urban land tenure and access to land for the urban poor have all pitched the debate on UA in the region. Some local authorities that participated in some of the research e.g. Harare and Kampala have now started debating at council level the need to set aside land for UA. Harare City Council has now accepted UA.

  4. There is increased awareness of the benefits of UA through the aggressive dissemination of information by MDPESA and the workshops held. Ministers of local government have signed a declaration acknowledging the activity and the need to properly organize it whilst some Mayors in Zimbabwe have signed a declaration in support of UA.


Urban Agriculture Publications


Last Updated on Sunday, 26 September 2010 14:35