Philippine newspaper reports on urban agriculture
Urban agriculture: Growing crops in the city
By Henrylito D. Tacio
Sun.Star Davao – source of Philippine community news
March 14, 2010
Farming is always associated with rural areas, rivers and mountains.
Unknowingly, farming can also be done right in the city. Experts call this practice as urban agriculture.
“Urban agriculture refers not merely to the growing of food crops and fruit trees but that it also encompasses the raising of animals, poultry, fish, bees, rabbits, guinea pigs, or other livestock considered edible locally,” explains Dr. Irene Tinker, an American professor in the department of city and regional planning at the University of California.
In recent years, urban agriculture has been creating a big impact in some thickly-populated areas. In the 1990s, the Beijing government decided that urban agriculture was an important way to meet the city’s food needs. Today, farming in, around, and near Beijing not only provides residents with safer, healthier food, it also keeps farmers in business.
“Between 1995 and 2003, the income for farmers living just outside of Beijing doubled,” wrote Brian Halweil and Danielle Nierenberg in their collaborative report published in the recent issue of State of the World, published by Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute.
In Vancouver, Canada, 44 percent of the people grow vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, or herbs in their yards, on their balconies, or in one of the 17 community gardens located on city property. “There, farming the city is part of a much larger movement that includes restaurants buying from local farms, and buying clubs in which neighbors subscribe to weekly deliveries of produce,” noted Halweil and Nierenberg.
In Thailand, 60 percent of the land is under cultivation in greater Bangkok. In Russia, 72 percent of all urban families are engaged in raising food, mostly part-time. In the United States, the number of farmers’ markets selling locally-grown produce increased by 40 percent from 1994 to 1996.
In Guangzhou, China, up to nine crops are grown yearly on any single field. In Hong Kong, six crops of cabbage a year are not uncommon. Urban farming supplies Israel with 95 percent of its food needs. The city of Cairo is host to some 80,000 livestock.
In the Philippines, a presidential decree obliged owners, or entitled others with owners’ permission, to cultivate unused private lands and some public lands adjoining streets or highways in Metro Manila. In Davao City, the agriculturist’s office is promoting the “Gulayan sa Barangay.” This program pushes for the growth and propagation of organically-grown vegetables.
The United Nations Development Program estimates that 800 million people are involved in urban farming around the world, with the majority in Asian cities. Of these, 200 million produce food primarily for the market, but the great majority raise food for their own families.
In a survey conducted for the United Nations, cities worldwide already produce about one third of the food consumed by their residents on average.
This percentage is “likely to grow in coming decades, given that the need for urban agriculture could be greater now than ever before,” Halweil and Nierenberg wrote.