Urban farming refers to agricultural practices in urban and adjacent areas of cities. It means simply growing or producing food in urban spaces.Usually, the farming in the urban areas takes place where residential and commercial buildings exist. The city dwellers see their scopes to cultivate food and nonfood items using their small areas such as vacant plots, garden, verges, balconies and containers.
It is obvious that urban gardening strengthens food production in the country. Not only that, it has a positive impact on economy, environment and health of citypeople. It helps to provide needs for essential vitamins, minerals and plant protein of the city people. It also creates a direct access of city dwellers to fresh, nutritious fruit and vegetables every day.
The United Nations set seventeenth sustainable development goals. Among them the Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims at ensuring global food security and is committed to achieving zero hunger. Countries are working individually to promote sustainable agriculture to ensure zero hunger status by 2030 which was set by the United Nations in 2015.
The world sees a gradual advancement in combating hunger. But the food insecurity has again deepened due to the lingering Covid-19 pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine. Poor and developing countries are bearing the most brunt of the global economic recession. Life and livelihoods undergo huge uncertainties. Experts predict that many countries are likely to face a food crisis in the middle of 2023.
According to the United Nations (UN) Task Team for the Global Crisis Response Group, in the global setting, an estimated 1.7-billion people are expected to suffer greatly from food insecurity, energy prices, and debt burdens. The source indicates that the socioeconomic stress of people has triggered following the Covid-19 crisis and unfolding impacts of climate change. The report revealed by the task team claims that out of 1.7 billion people 553 million are already poor, and 215 million are already undernourished.
To avert a looming food crisis, policymakers across the world are adopting many strategies to feed the ever growing population. They are not only prioritizing agriculture in the rural areas but also encouraging urban farming to meet the looming food insecurity. They are considering agriculture as the most resilient project to avert many challenges in the day of economic recession. Urban farming is reinforced at many parts of the world to strengthen national food production.
The concept of urban farming is not new. Over the centuries many countries have been adopting different strategies to flourish urban farming. It is playing a crucial role to enhancing food security of the countries and easing life and livelihoods in many ways.
In Bangladesh, undeniably, agriculture plays a pivotal role to feed the entire population. In the last five decades the country has made a remarkable progress in agriculture. The use of modern technology in agriculture has helped this sector bring green revolution. To ensure maximum agricultural production, high-yield and short duration crop varieties are used in our agriculture.
Certainly, the agriculture sector in the country is making a huge contribution to economic growth and creating employment opportunity. However, despite noticeable progress in this sector, the country has not yet achieved maximum food security with our homegrown products. Ever year it is common to notice that floods, cyclones, and many other natural disasters adversely affect the country’s agricultural system resulting in reducing of crop productivity. So, the country still needs to import many food items from other lands every year.
However, it is good to see that though we have a lack of arable land and natural resources our farmers are using the full potential of our agricultural lands in the countryside. But urban farming is merely a concept to most of the city dwellers. Many city people still think that agriculture is a low standard work and it should be in the countryside. The labor class people will work in this sector. It is quite incongruous in the colorful city life.
Studies reveal that city life is becoming a burden with over population. Sources say that the growth of the urban population rate is higher in Bangladesh compared to the rate of natural increase in overall population. However, it is no denial that people of different professions working in the city are contributing enormously to the national economy of the country but in most cases they have hardly any contribution to enhancing food production.
The Dhaka North Community Federation and FAO jointly conducted a study in 2019 and found that in the time of Covid-19 pandemic urban people were more vulnerable than the rural people. The poor households spent half of their income on food. The study found the increasing rates of hunger in urban communities. But if they were able to produce their own food in the urban areas, survival in city would not be as challenging as they experienced amid the pandemic.
However, in the last some years rooftop gardening has been popular to the city dwellers. The city dwellers wishing to grow organic food for their children or merely out of being inspired with their hobbies are found making rooftop gardens. But it is hardly observed that they are aware of food insecurity in which the country may fall. According to the report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), almost 800 million people worldwide work for urban agriculture. In recent times, Cuba has become the pioneer of urban horticulture, especially in rooftop and balcony gardening.
But in Bangladesh there is no concrete data on rooftop gardening. Last year a survey conducted by ‘The Green Savers Association’ found that in Dhaka, of the total roof space 3% has a garden at present. This scenario certainly exhibits a poor status of rooftop gardening in the cities.
It is appreciating that to ensure food security for the people of the country the government is taking many initiatives. Apart from storing food grains for the days of crisis, they are encouraging importing through government and private sectors. Our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has advised the nation to utilize every bit of spare space and corner for food production. Time has come to realize that all the responsibilities cannot be upon the ordinary farmers in the countryside. To strengthen our agriculture there is no alternative to encouraging urban farming that will make an additional contribution to ensuring food security for the people in our country.
(The writer teaches at Prime University. Email: mal[email protected])
Source: Sun Editorial