James Petts


Urban agriculture is as old as towns and cities themselves, although it has only relatively recently been recognised by national and international bodies for its importance for the sustainability of cities and urban societies. It is an economic activity, engaged in for commercial reasons by an esti­mated 200 million people, and informally by an addi­tional 600 million people worldwide. The United Nations Development Programmes’ (UNDP) ground­breaking book, Urban Agriculture; food, jobs and sustainable cities (Smit, 1996), identifies three eco­nomic benefits of urban agriculture: employment, income generation and enterprise development; national agriculture sector and urban food supply; and land-use economics.

‘Urban agriculture’ (UA), for the purposes of this chapter is narrower than the definition used in the rest of this book. In this chapter it refers to small areas, such as verges, allotments, private and community gardens, and balconies within the city, for growing crops and raising poultry and livestock for eggs, meat, milk, etc., for home consumption or sale in neighbourhood markets. ‘Peri-urban agriculture’ refers to farm units close to town which operate semi or entirely commercial farms and market gardens to grow crops and raise poultry and livestock. The term urban and peri­urban agriculture (UPA) is used to refer to both phenomena.

There are some studies of the economics of urban agriculture, although these are limited, and focus on developing countries or the ‘South’. This is not surprising given the number of development agen­cies and NGOs involved with research, develop­ment and facilitation of UPA in the South. UPA is, however, recognised as a global phenomenon and is participated in, studied, and described the world over. UPA in the North (excluding well-known examples such as Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union) is generally no longer percieved as a response to national crises affecting the entire popu­lation, or a ‘coping strategy’ as it once was during the First and Second World Wars and in previous centuries. In the North it is generally seen as a response to reducing long term environmental degradation or particular local conditions, often related to specific areas of social depravation. In the South it is relied upon by many households for their very existence.

Studies of UPA on a macroeconomic scale, show that the contribution to national economies is not insignificant (See Table 9.1). However, survey data relating to the income earned from urban farming cannot be generalised given the diversity of condi­tions between seasons, cities, and within cities (Nugent, 2000). Studies calculating UPA’s income contribution are unlikely to accurately estimate the quantities of food produced because informal agri­cultural activity is not usually included. One esti­mate, however, did calculate that the 30000 or so allotment holders in London produce nearly as much fruit and vegetables by weight as commercial horticultural enterprises (Garnett, 1999). And one study in the United States (US) of informal garden­ers found that the net economic value of 151 plots was between $160 and $178 per year, with a range between $2 to $1134 (The Philadelphia Urban Gardening Project, 1991).

UPA’s contribution to employment is also likely to be underestimated because it is not generally recorded in labour statistics of economies, partly because farmers may not count self-employment in UPA as a ‘job’. When attempting to calculate the size of the urban agriculture market, difficulties also arise because urban and rural produce is mixed at markets and cannot be determined if the origin is not specified (Petts, 2001). Prices are also difficult

Подпись: Table 9.1 Food provided by urban and peri-urban agriculture. City/country Local needs met by UPA (%) Amount produced annually (tons or litres/day) Bamako 100 (horticultural) Dakar, 1994/1995 70 (vegetables) 65-70 (poultry) Harare small Havana, 1998 541 000 (vegetables) Dar es Salaam, 1999 60 (milk), 90 (vegetables) Jakarta, 1999 10 (vegetables), 16 (fruit), 2 (rice) Kampala 70 (poultry and eggs) Kathmandu for urban gardeners; 37 (plant foods), 11 (animal) La Paz, 1999 30 (vegetables) Hubli-Dharwad, 1999 small 40 000 litres/day London, 1999 8400 (vegetables - commercial) 7460 (vegetables - allotments) 27 (honey) Lusaka for squatter population; 33 (total) Ho Chi Minh City, 1999 high 217 000 (rice), 214 000 (vegetables), 8700 (poultry), 241 000 (sugar), 27 900 (milk), 4500 (beef) Hong Kong 45 (vegetables) Singapore 80 (poultry), 25 (vegetables) Sofia, 1999 48 (milk), 53 (potatoes), 50 (other vegetables) Accra, 1999 1 (total) Shanghai, 1999 60 (vegetables), 100 (milk), 90 (eggs), 50 (pork, poultry) Sources: Smit (1996) and Nugent, R.(2000). Sustain, City Harvest; the feasibility of growing more food in London.

to measure due to fluctuations and variations over time and between different markets.

Although urban agriculture currently makes a sig­nificant contribution to the food needs of many
urban populations, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that, in the future, the 12 ‘mega-cities’ (10 million plus popu­lation) will experience increasing difficulty in feed­ing themselves (FAO, 1998).

Updated: October 7, 2015 — 12:27 am