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Why You Should Practice Urban Agriculture

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Agriculture is often associated with rural environments. While a lot of the food we eat in fact comes from rural areas, (in Nigeria, 70% of rural people are subsistence smallholder farmers and they produce 90% of Nigeria’s food), agriculture can also be practiced in urban areas.

Urban agriculture, also known as urban farming or urban gardening, is the practice of cultivating and distributing food in urban areas. Some of the food products that can be grown in urban agriculture are grains, root crops, rhizomes, mushrooms, and vegetables as well as ornamental plants and medicinal herbs.

Urban gardening can also involve the rearing of livestock such as poultry, rabbits, goats, fish and others.

Types of Urban Agricultural Practices

Backyard Gardens: Many people have small gardens or farms in their backyards where they grow food mostly for personal consumption. They plant crops such as tomatoes, maize, pepper, and vegetables. Some of the reasons why people venture into backyard farming is because it saves cost, guarantees organically grown produce, and is also a form of exercise.

Rooftop Gardens: As the name implies, a rooftop garden is a garden on the roof of a building. Though it is mostly used for aesthetic purposes, it can also provide food. However, not just any plant can be grown on the roof due to structural reasons.  Plants such as aromatic herbs for example is suitable for rooftop gardens and are usually grown in pots.

Urban Beekeeping: Bees have a symbiotic relationship with flowering plants which makes them an important part of the food chain and earth’s ecosystem as a whole. They serve as natural pollinators for plants and trees.

Worker bees collect nectar from flowers and while doing so, the pollen on their body rubs off on the flowers. This pollen transfer makes it possible to fertilize ovaries and enable reproduction. The plants are then able to produce fruits and seeds.

Urban farmers can keep bee colonies in urban areas to encourage biodiversity. They also provide environmental and economic benefits.

Engaging in these urban agricultural practices can lead to positive outcomes such as:

Increasing Food Security: Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, which meets their dietary needs and preferences for an active and healthy life. Urban agriculture increases food security by providing healthy substitutes for purchased foods. Households who purchase urban agriculture have more access to a variety of nutritious foods and vegetables.agriculture helps to correct this by reducing the price of healthy food through middle man elimination and increasing the opportunity for community members to participate in the growing of food.

Making Food Traceable: One of the major problems of the food supply chain is the lack of food traceability. Urban agriculture however seeks to provide a solution to this. When farmers produce and distribute food within the same area, they make it easier for consumers to trace where the food came from as opposed to when it has to be transported from different areas. This makes it easier to determine the authenticity of the food.

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Increasing Economic Growth: Urban agriculture encourages the use of land to feed people. Spaces such as rooftop gardens and vertical gardens take up minimal space but produces a lot of fresh and healthy food. Urban agriculture cuts down on fossil fuel production which farmers would have needed to transport, package, and sell food.Urban farms also aid the flow of income within the region. This makes it easier for farmers to connect with markets where they can supply directly and maximize profit.

Creating Job Opportunities: Urban agriculture helps to create job opportunities in urban environments by employing the services of dispatchers, sales representatives, cleaners, gardeners, and many others. This strengthens our economy.

Learning: While creating their own foods, urban dwellers can learn different processes in farming such as gardening techniques and others. It also helps people learn more about sustainable agriculture.

Do you have any other reasons why everyone should be urban gardeners? Let us know below

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Agriculture

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Forests

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Forests do not only provide a habitat for wild animals or exist to scare us in horror movies, they do more for us than we realize. One of the most widely accepted definitions of a forest is by the FAO. The organization explains forests as land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10%.

Forests cover about 31% of the world’s land surface (which is just over 4 billion hectares where one hectare equals 2.47 acres). A better way to visualize this is by telling you that one hectare is about the size of an European football field. Therefore, 4 billion hectares is a lot of football fields.

Now that we know just how much of the earth is covered by forests, here are some more facts about them you probably didn’t know:

1. Forests Are Big Employers Of Labor: The United Nations estimates that about 10 million people are directly employed in forest management and conservation. The World Bank also states that the formal timber sector employs more than 13 million people.

These records cover only the formal sector. What about the undocumented forest workers? Forest business is largely informal and therefore many contributions and workers are largely unreported and the figures could amount to a lot more than we imagine.

Forests creates jobs which ranges from wood production to transportation, charcoal production and so much more.

2. They Serve As Habitat To Many: Forests serve as habitat to many animals such as deer, tigers, bears, and other wildlife. They also house plants and trees like oak, magnolia, moss, and many others. However, you would be surprised to find out that many people live in forests, 300 million people to be exact.

The world’s rain forests are home to about 50 million tribal people. Some of the tribes include the PygmiesHuli, and the Yanomami. They all depend on the forest for their food sources and survival.

Therefore, forest destruction not only ruins habitats for plants and animals, but also renders some humans homeless and takes away their source of survival.

3. Forests Affect Our Everyday Lives: Almost everything you’ve done today can be traced back to forests. If you’ve eaten today or taken the bus, or even written something down on a piece of paper, then forests have paid an important role in your activities.

The manufacturing of products such as paper, fruits, wood, and even ingredients for detergents, medicine, and cosmetics, can be trailed back to the forest.

The importance of forests, especially in our daily lives, cannot be overemphasized.

4. They Give Us Oxygen: Did you know that one tree provides about 260 pounds of oxygen yearly? That means two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four. How much more a forest?

Forests make oxygen by absorbing carbon dioxide and converting it to oxygen. Without this process, we would not survive. Forests also clean up the air by absorbing harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide to release oxygen.

Also Read Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

Apart from making the air clean for us, they also cool the air. The evaporation from a single tree can create the cooling effect of 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. If one tree can do that, what can a whole forest do?

5. Forests Attract Tourism: Nature is beautiful, and a lot of people are willing to pay good money to experience nature. Forests can be a good way to drive agritourism and enhance the economy. When tourists pay to see forests and their reserves, this contributes to the economy of the community where the forest is found.

Also, the visual aesthetics and cooling effects they have can boost creativity and serve as a source of inspiration.

Are we missing an important point in this post? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Agriculture

AfDB, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership sign $5.4 million agreements to foster fertilizer market in Nigeria and Tanzania

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The African Development Bank and the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) have signed two grant agreements to implement trade credit guarantees worth $5.4 million to support fertilizer value chains in Nigeria and Tanzania, potentially benefiting hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.

The organizations held a signing ceremony at the African Green Revolution Forum in Accra, Ghana on 5 September 2019. Dr. Jennifer Blanke, African Development Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development said the agreements would provide the inputs needed for Africa to have “the productivity that we hope for.”

“We are just thrilled to be getting together with our partners in order to expand the efforts to make sure that we are financing the development of manufacturing and blending of fertilizer,” Blanke said. “This is an African effort, led by Africans, for Africa,” she added.

The grants are designed by the Bank’s Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM) to provide sustainable financing solutions to boost the fertilizer value chain in Africa.

African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership CEO Jason Scarpone signed the agreements on behalf of the continental body, emphasizing the importance of value chain financing – bringing fertilizer financing from manufacturer, to distributor, to retailer to farmer. “Few succeed in doing it. This project will be successful,” Scarpone told reporters.

The two deals are the first agreements signed by AFFM, which is hosted by the African Development Bank, since it was became fully functional last year;they pave the way for the first implementation of trade credit guarantee projects for fertilizer financing led by AFFM in Nigeria and Tanzania.

The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership will be the implementing partner operating in the two countries on behalf of the Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism. The Partnership has substantial experience in supporting the agricultural value chain across the continent.

Also Read Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

Scheduled for implementation over a two-year period, the projects will lead to the enhancement of fertilizer value chains in the two countries and will target 10 importers, 5 blenders/manufacturers, and 37 hub agro-dealers as direct beneficiaries, 520 retail agro-dealers as indirect beneficiaries and 700,000 smallholder farmers as final beneficiaries.

By supporting the fertilizer value chain in the two countries, the projects will go a long way to making fertilizer available to more farmers, a key objective of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy.

“We have expected results that are realistic. We are here to make sure this happens,” AFFM Coordinator Marie Claire Kalihangabo said at the signing ceremony.

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Agriculture

3 Problems Facing the Food Supply Chain

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A food supply chain is the journey food takes from where it’s grown to where it’s consumed. Typically, the chain is made up of six processes:

  • Assembling raw materials.
  • Production.
  • Processing (Branding and packaging).
  • Storage.
  • Distribution (wholesale and retail).
  • Consumption.

These different processes are handled by various key players in the food supply chain such as farmers, manufacturers, distributors and others.

If there is an error during any of these stages, the final product could be affected and the consumer might end up taking food that is below safety standards.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1 in 10 people fall sick every year from eating contaminated food. Therefore a problem in the supply system might be detrimental to one’s health.

Below are three problems facing the food supply chain and some suggested solutions:

1. Lack of Traceability:

Nowadays, many people are curious about the origin of their food. For instance, a lot of people like to know the exact ingredients that constitute their meals to be sure it meets up with their diet plans/dietary intake.

In 2012, a study in Europe revealed that 70% of consumers consider the origin of their food as an important factor when purchasing it. Food traceability is important because it has three key benefits:

  • It improves quality control.
  • It increases supply chain visibility.
  • It reduces risk.

Nonetheless, the food supply system is still not as traceable as consumers would like it to be.

Also Read Interview With Sanne Steemers, A Dutch Chocolate Entrepreneur Connecting Europe And Africa

Solution:

Keeping a record of the food journey from production to consumption not only helps companies guarantee the authenticity of their products but also helps suppliers spot and react quickly when issues arise.

It also helps companies to build their customer base, loyalty, brand, and can be a saving grace in the events of legal issues.

Some practical ways to increase food traceability is by:

  • Implementing tracking systems and software.
  • Creating alert systems to notify key players when things go wrong.
  • Communicating with the customers.

2. Poor Storage and Transport:

Poor storage and transport is one of the biggest problems in agriculture and it often leads to food wastage. In the food supply chain, the problem also affects the quality of food.

If any of the key players compromise food quality and they don’t detect it early, the consumer can end up eating this unsafe food.

The goal is to produce and distribute high quality products that are safe for consumption and there are some practical measures that can be taken towards achieving this.

Solution:

If you compromise one step, you will one step is jeopardized, it will compromise the entire process. To solve this problem, the first step is to select the best raw materials and use the right production method to see the process through.

Use adequate storage equipment to store feed in order to keep it fresh and healthy. Also, when branding and packaging the food, manufacturers should do it in a way that they preserve the freshness and safety of the food.

3. Lack of Trust and Communication Between Key Players:

No chain can function well if there is ineffective communication between key players. Improper communication causes a rift in the food supply chain.

Nearly every food item passes through many hands before it gets to the final consumer. It is sometimes hard to keep track of all the people involved in food production.

For instance, a plate of salad consists of different vegetables. Each of these vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, spinach) were planted in different places and go through various hands in order to get to the consumer’s plate.

Solution:

Thankfully, technology has made it easier to communicate. To encourage transparency and increase effectiveness in the food supply chain, there should be a clear channel of communication among the key players.

What other problems can be encountered in the food supply chain? Let us know in the comment section below.

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