Urban farming: cultivating community, livelihoods and nutrition

By Tracey Grose

Throughout the developing world, urban farming is taking root in a variety of forms and yielding not only food but also livelihoods and community. Above-ground planting beds, kitchen gardens, and rooftop greenhouses are cropping up in urban centers. Farming is transforming tall buildings, empty lots and abandoned warehouses. In many cases, people are using the most basic tools or extremely innovative new combinations of existing tools. Some examples are leveraging newer production methods and tools.

Three are numerous signals for how urban farming will unfold in the future where we will be faced with larger populations and more limited natural resources. Technological advances will improve resource efficiency and productive yields. Examples of our high tech future include LED grow lights (Philips), high-rise hydroponic (nutrient-enriched water) or aeroponically (nutrient-enriched air) greenhouses (Vertical Harvest) and in-door farming (FarmedHere) and fisheries. The Swedish-Chinese collaboration in indoor farming, Plantagon, develops high-tech industrial integration of waste and productive streams.

In the meantime, other innovative but lower-tech solutions are surfacing in urban centers in the developing world. Sack farming in Kibera, the slum of about one million residents around Nairobi, is producing nutritious food for families as well as surplus to be sold at a profit. This growing business opportunity is growing in other African urban centers.

In India, urban farming is taking hold across economic groups, building community, and importantly improving nutrition in the slums. After growing into much of its surrounding farm land, the City of Pune is now integrating food production into its high-rise planning. Since 2008 they have been encouraging urban farmers on land and even in the kitchen. The City of Hyderabad is supporting urban farming by providing families with starter kits. By composting household waste, community farming creates sustainable systems for food production in cities. More elaborate low-tech systems like those developed by the Urban Farming Guys can have great impact in a community.


It is very encouraging and overwhelming to see urban communities are bringing nutritious food to their doorsteps. The initiative will assist in building resilient with sovereignty aspirations urban communities. It is very imperative to be promoted particularly, Africa, Malawi where the population growth rate and urbanisation is very rapid respectively. Therefore, looking forward to share ideas and experiences. Email:mmpofu200@yahoo.co.uk or permaoutreach2@gmail.com

Tracey Grose's picture

Thank you for your comment! I agree, as urbanization continues (and very rapidly in some places, as you say), urban food production becomes increasingly important. San Francisco just announced that it will be the first city in the US to offer financial incentives to property owners to turn empty land into farms. See article here: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/S-F-property-owners-to-get-ta...

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