The potential for small-scale urban farming in India
India is among only 3 out of 81 developing countries that have not succeeded in improving hunger conditions in the past 15 years
By Henrik Valeur and Arshinder Kaur
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol – XLVII No. 24
June 16, 2012 |
The case for urban farming in India
India is experiencing rapid urbanisation, fuelled by and powering economic growth. But this growth is not equally distributed, partly because the integration into the cities of people trying to escape rural poverty is being resisted by the people already living in the cities. Therefore, most rural migrants wind up in slum areas – or eventually in so-called rehabilitation colonies – literally or figuratively located on the outskirts of cities, where opportunities are severely limited. The upshot of this is that poverty, as such, is simply conveyed from one area (the rural) to another (the urban).
And this stands in stark contrast to what we can see in other developing countries like, for instance, China, where several hundred million people, over the course of the past three decades, are reported to have escaped extreme poverty by moving to cities (where they have found job opportunities in the manufacturing industry, on construction sites, etc.).
One of poverty’s many shadows is hunger, and India’s inability – or reluctance – to integrate its poor in the urban economy is also reflected in the fact that despite massive rural migration, India is among only 3 out of 81 developing countries that have not succeeded in improving hunger conditions in the past 15 years, according to the 2011 Global Hunger Index Report.
In fact, ActionAid, in its 2009 Scorecard Report, criticised India for having added 30 million people to the ranks of the hungry since the mid-1990s while Bangladesh, for example, has reduced that number by more than 10 million in the past 10 years. This same report also claims that hunger exists in India not because there is insufficient food but because people cannot access it.
What can be done to change this picture? We believe that the answer may be to provide the urban poor with possibilities of growing their own food, either individually or in cooperation. And with an estimated quarter of a billion undernourished people and a quarter of a billion people expected to be added to its urban population over the next twenty years, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute from 2010, urban farming may have enormous potential in India.