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22 September 2019
Research into policy: Kenya`s UPAL Policy Print
Thursday, 08 November 2012 13:06

Urban and peri-urban farming is a fact of life in many developing countries. In Africa, you’d be hard pushed to name a single country where this is not the case. It is here to stay—and to be encouraged rather than eradicated—as more and more people migrate from rural to urban areas, food prices continue to escalate, salaries remain low and jobs are scarce. By 2010, for the first time in history, 52 percent of people globally were living in urban areas and the number keeps escalating. At least 800 million of them in developing countries practice urban and peri-urban agriculture and livestock rearing (UPAL).

As much as this provides benefits such as better food security and nutrition and greater job creation, there are risks attached to urban farming, as research done into urban livestock rearing by the University of Nairobi and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently highlighted. As the pressure on urban and peri-urban land increases, already weak infrastructure generally weakens further, leading to unsanitary conditions, ecological changes and close contact between livestock and animals, all of which favour transmission and emergence of disease pathogens. This can exacerbate the incidence of diseases transmitted between animals and humans (zoonoses), for example brucellosis, tuberculosis and toxoplasmosis. The study found that “zoonoses and diseases emerging from animals make up 26 percent of the infectious disease burden in low-income countries”.

The study also found, among other issues, that:

•    There are more livestock raised in developing country cities than people think.
•    The disease risk, including that of zoonoses, is low, and this is as a result of cultural practices that mitigate the risk, a factor not considered when decisions are made to ban urban agriculture without science-based evidence.
•    Rather than legislate against or harass those raising livestock, they should be encouraged and incentivised to improve their practices.

In a related study into zoonoses done by ILRI in Ibadan and Nairobi, principal investigator Delia Grace found that “in the absence of evidence, policies are based on the prejudice that urban livestock keeping is unsafe and unmodern, and it is often banned outright. Of course it continues behind hedges and in back alleys, but the imposed illegality drives a rush to the bottom in hygienic practices and investments. When farmers are harassed by authorities and operate in a legal grey area, they have little access to the support they need and little incentive to invest in business improvements.”

Kenya’s National Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture and Livestock Policy supports urban farming, and its overall objective is “to promote and regulate sustainable UPAL development to improve incomes, food security, create employment and reduce poverty to enhance living standards; with focus on land use, public health and environment.”

Earlier research has contributed to the Kenyan government’s proactive approach, which includes “posting veterinary, animal production and crop personnel in major urban centers to lead from the front in championing the development of urban agriculture. Involving these civil servants has been key in enabling our research in urban agriculture. This is a good example of government changing its policy to better meet the needs of citizens,” Grace says.

In August the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published a status report on African urban and peri-urban horticulture—what it calls the home, school, community and market gardens that produce fruits and vegetables in and around the continent’s cities.

At local government level, two cities’ policies on urban agriculture are worth looking at, namely that of Kampala and that of Cape Town.