Is urban agriculture the future of Africa?
Using science, technology and innovation could help promote the use of urban agriculture to sustain food and nutrition security in African cities, experts say. According to scientists specializing in agriculture, geography and urban planning, urban agriculture has been neglected in urban planning and development agenda, despite its obvious benefits of helping to feed the rapidly growing African population. Agricultural activities such as crop farming and livestock keeping are still deemed as activities of rural dwellers by African urbanites, but this has to change.
“Hunger levels are on the rise in Africa but we haven’t found sustainable solutions,” says Sheryl Hendricks, director, Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Hendricks explains that urban agriculture could help increase agricultural diversity, especially in producing vegetables to enhance nutrition security. According to Hendricks science, technology and innovation research could help find innovations to aid food safety and reduce post-harvest losses and food waste.
The continent also needs to increase the adoption of modern technology and innovations in farming such as using agricultural data monitoring sensors that transmit timely data on amount of nutrients in the soil, rainfall and temperatures to mobile phone devices for action, concluded the experts during the Sustainable African Cities Conference in Ghana.
The conference that brought together 200 experts from many countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Canada and Germany, had delegates discuss current challenges and exploring future pathways for sustainable cities in Africa. The event was organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in collaboration with the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Network of African Academy of Sciences and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany.
George Ofori, a fellow of the GAAS, says that Africa should reduce over-reliance on modern technologies developed outside of the continent to increase sustainability. “We need to find localised solutions to food and nutrition security issues in our urban settings,” Ofori explains.
Axel Drescher, a research fellow at the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Freiberg, Germany, says that urban agriculture is practised in some African cities such as Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Lusaka in Zambia and Bamako in Mali, adding that urban agriculture could produce eggs, milk, poultry, fruits and vegetables that are highly nutritious.
But Drescher explains that there is a need for more research to examine the potential of urban agriculture in addressing food and nutrition security and increasing sustainability of African cities.