Urban agriculture is defined as the practice of farming within the boundaries of towns or cities. According to a 2012 report published by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), in Accra, urban farming is responsible for 90 percent of the city’s fresh vegetables and 46 percent of the capital’s households are involved in it.
The need for urban farming is pressing
Despite this popularity in urban farming, it has been largely ignored in the development strategies of cities such as Accra.
Urbanisation keeps increasing in African countries.
In 2000, the United Nations reported that 38% of Africans lived in urban areas. This figure is expected to increase to 55% by 2030. For example, Kayayo girls definitely contribute to the percentage of locals moving from rural areas to cities.
In Accra precisely, it is expected that the population will reach 1.6 billion by 2030, in contrast to 1 billion in 2010, the need for urban implementation policies is urgent.
Types of urban farming in Accra
There are two main types of urban cultivation, enclosed cultivation and open-space cultivation. Enclosed cultivation is a small plot of land that you may find on a land that is fenced or walled. These may be private houses in Accra which tend to be very expensive, meaning only successful business people, high government officials and the relatively wealthy can afford enclosed cultivation.
Open-space cultivation is cultivation away from someone’s residence, which is mostly government owned land that is unused. Most times it is beneficial for the government to have farmers planting on their lands because they help maintain the land by cutting down the trees for example, which helps them from disturbing the electrical lines.
Enclosed and open-space farmers have different reasons for farming. Enclosed farmers mostly plant for their own individual use whilst open-space farmers use it as a source of income.
No land in Accra is actually zoned for urban farming. This situation creates a lot of risks which in turn contributes to the fact that there is not enough support from the government to develop urban farming.
Reasons for negative attitudes towards urban farming
Use of biocides & it’s effects on human health and the environment
It was believed by the officials that the use of biocides for pest/disease control could reduce food crop losses and thus ensure food supplies for the growing population. However, they then noticed that urban cultivators concoct chemicals that might be hazardous to humans and contribute significantly to water pollution.
For these reasons many officials started to fear that the uncontrolled use of these chemicals would contaminate urban soils and drinking water.
They believed that maize crops provided breeding places for mosquitoes and thus increased malaria.
Pollution in urban areas
They supported the idea that urban areas are highly polluted and so the production of food is inherently unhealthy.
Water bills are too high
Open-space farmers use gutter water and untreated wastewater instead of tap water to avoid costs. The use of this water may pose a threat to human health.
The belief that urban agriculture is unstructured
An activity that is perceived as ignoring city-planning codes: agriculture is not included in formal planning, therefore farmers cultivate wherever they want. This has led to the belief that urban agriculture is unstructured, the reason why they discourage it.
Socio-economic background of farmers
Most open-space farmers are low-income individuals who haven’t had a chance to education.
However, there are some promising signs for urban agriculture, especially because there has been a slight attitude change. And so why is that?
1. Increase in mid/upper class people being involved in urban agriculture.
2. Public opinion has shifted to being more positive and thus influenced many other people’s opinions.
3. Shortage of foreign exchange to import food and the fact that rural Ghana is not able to supply enough food to urban Ghana.
4. Changes in diet due to increased knowledge and education of nutrition. Many Ghanaians are becoming more aware of the importance of vegetables in their diet.
5. Increased population of expats living in Accra. Urban farmers have been encouraged to grow specific crops that mostly the expats consume. These kinds of products attract higher prices than those targeted at the local population. This means that the goal of attracting increased foreign investment is slowly being achieved, thus seeing urban agriculture in a more positive light.
Great initiatives in Accra towards urban agriculture
Baff Organics Farm & Agrotech project
Baff Organics Farm & Agrotech is a business that started in 2016 out of passion, curiosity and concern of food security in Ghana by owner & CEO Baffour Kyei Frimpong.
Mr. Baffour wants to spread the idea that food should be seen as our medicine instead of just as food. He also wants to show people that not having a garden or piece of land, doesn’t mean you can’t plant your own food. He achieves this by introducing an alternative way to planting by planting into pots. Through this method he teaches people on how to create their own urban gardens and change their relation with food.
The whole idea behind this urban farming project is to reimagine your relationship with food in an urban context; how can you grow your own food in an urban context?
Tala, a half persian-american expat living in Accra, is the brain behind Joon, meaning “nourish your soul through food” in Persian language. She is working with the Ghana Food Movement on a project called “Farm Accra” which has the objective of cultivating an urban farming network throughout Accra and bringing the conversation of food systems into the city.
They offer an amazing service where they transform your space (be it a grassy yard or a concrete area) into an urban farm and help you understand permaculture principles by teaching you how to manage your farm and harvest, store and process your farm goods.
Through projects like these ones, we are slowly helping change the perception towards food in cities such as Accra, and especially in the importance of our diets and the relation it has with our health. At Green Views Residential, we also share these values. Come visit us and see for yourself our wonderful luxury acommodation options in Accra!