Urban farming: A way out of the job market in Nigeria
Kitchen garden, Nigeria. See larger image here.
One place where urban farming can easily be noticed in the country is Lagos
By Chioma Pius
28 May, 2010
All seasons the year round, the place is ever green. It cuts the picture of a well cultivated and taken care of green belt. And almost round the clock, an array of workers scurry about bearing water cans, their brown bodies glistering with sweat.
The crowd on this belt however varies in composition depending on the time of the day. Some women could be sighted holding heated discussions with their male counterparts. Which ever way one looks at it, the fact remains that a bustling business holds here daily. Welcome to a part of the Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State where urban farming thrives.
It is a fact that many towns and cities in Nigeria grew out of farming and fishing communities where agriculture had, in the past, been the major occupation of the inhabitants. However, since the advent of western education and white collar jobs coupled with the discovery of petroleum in commercial quantity a lot of Nigerians especially the youth have abandoned the farms for the city in search of jobs which in most cases are non existent.
As the population of cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt continue to grow with the attendant increase demands on food and shelters many people are now turning to what is called ‘urban farming’. It is an important source of supply in urban food systems. Urban farming is also a good source of food security options for households in the cities in the face of serious unemployment crisis in the country.
Urban farming is not a Nigerian thing because according to a report by the United Nations Organisation (UNO) it is estimated that about 200 million urban dwellers participate in urban farming all over the world. The report also maintained that urban agriculture is gaining greater attention and has been expanding in many countries such as China, Singapore, Kenya, Uganda, Togo, Sierra Leone and including Nigeria. However, most urban farmers in the country are low-income men and women who grow food largely for self-consumption and cash income, on small plots that they do not own, with little if any support or protection from the government.
One place where urban farming can easily be noticed in the country is Lagos. Lagos, being Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre with the greatest concentration of manufacturing and service industries, attracts people from all over the country. Although these urban farmers cultivate different food crops such as maize and cassava but the most widely spread is vegetable because of its high demand.
Vegetables are among the major dietary intake of the everyday life. Vegetables, eaten fresh or boiled, are also an important diet relished in many local Nigerian cuisines and delicacies. Vegetables include African spinach, water leaf, fluted pumpkin, lettuce, cabbage and a host of others. They are used wholly or partly as food. Vegetables are grown mainly for their leaves and they contribute to a balanced diet particularly among the rural poor where animal protein is deficient.