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.
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
Climate change report shines spotlight on Africa’s agriculture potential
It seems almost incongruous to talk about the opportunity that exists in ensuring the world’s food security by bolstering Africa’s agricultural output when the very pressing and public crisis of climate change could be its undoing.
Particularly in the run up to COP26 and the “reality check” that came with this week’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Six Assessment Report, it is clear the entire African continent is “highly exposed” to climate extremes, at a relatively “high level of vulnerability”.
With over two thirds of Africans deriving their livelihood off agriculture, climate change-led crises like droughts, floods and cyclones continue to threaten the continent’s economic growth, employment, and food security. And yet, ensuring Africa’s agricultural resilience would not just help Africa. It’s essential for ensuring global food security.
What’s more, these climate-led natural disasters have the greatest and most disproportionate impact on small- to medium-scale farmers, comprising as much as 80% of Africa’s agricultural output, from maize and wheat to rice, cassava, and sorghum.
“The UN Report confirmed that climate change is intensifying the water cycle and affecting rainfall patterns, bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions,” says Malvern Chirume, African Risk Capacity Limited Chief Underwriting Officer.
“These African farmers are the heart of the continent’s agriculture and are at the mercy of climate change events completely out of their control,” Chirume adds.
Established in 2014, ARC Limited provides natural disaster insurance relief to African countries which have joined the sovereign risk pool.
Along with its partners, which provide premium support, the insurer has already paid over US$65m to seven African countries to provide drought relief and address the economic concerns these countries’ most vulnerable citizens face.
Responding to the climate crisis
Traditionally, countries have responded to climate change-led disasters such as droughts or floods by raising funds for emergency relief. This approach is time-consuming and inefficient.
“It takes far too long for African countries to mobilise the immediate resources they need for relief efforts, to save lives and livelihoods. Our role at ARC Limited is to work with countries to prepare them for the risk exposure they have and how to respond swiftly to climate-related food security emergencies. This includes helping them to establish a rainy-day fund which pays out swiftly, before the problem has become worse, and more funding is needed.”
The ARC Limited model, built on parametric insurance (pre-specified pay-outs based upon a trigger event), has been highly successful, says Chirume.
“We have to date paid out close to $65 million dollars in claims. When one considers that every dollar in insurance pay-outs saves US$4 dollars, this makes the cumulative economic impact around US$240 million. With those funds, we’ve helped more than 5.9 million people whose livelihoods have been affected by climate change impacts,” Chirume explains.
While parametric insurance against natural disasters has enormous potential for the agricultural sector, it has a further economic impact. Because agriculture makes up such a significant portion of the continent’s economy, a downturn caused by a climate shock will echo through the broader economy of any nation affected.
This can bring an economic downturn, a lack of funding for key infrastructure and services at government level, and a loss of jobs as farmers struggle to recover. There is also evidence of migration away from areas experiencing drought, which can have a long-term impact on the regional economy.
Organisations such as ARC Limited have an essential role to play in this way in protecting agricultural value chains and the economies of and employment in Africa. “Our role is to help mitigate and manage the risk, building resilience and ensuring the African country is able to bounce back sooner after a natural disaster,” says Chirume.
With the negative impacts of climate change increasing and their potential to devastate the agricultural sectors and food security of African countries, it has become more important than ever to put sustainability at the heart of interventions.
“Creating an environment that limits the impact of climate shocks on the agricultural sector is about more than just securing economic transformation. At the heart of this investment is the need to ensure basic food security for the continent and the world,” says Chirume.
In its Sustainable Development Series, the World Bank says the African continent could play a leading role in ensuring food security for the earth’s estimated 9 billion people by 2050.
According to McKinsey, Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped. It determines that Africa could produce two to three times more cereals and grains, which would add 20% more cereals and grains to the world’s current output of 2.6 billion tons.
Given Africa’s productive potential, the continent could be a key contributor to feeding the world in the future. But to fully realise that potential will require overcoming many obstacles, including how it deals with the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security.
“We need broader collaboration between private and public sector to solve the climate change disaster response problem our continent faces. The problem is so big, that all of us have a role to play,” says Lesley Ndlovu, ARC Limited CEO.
With the support of the United Kingdom and German Government, ARC Limited has been equipped to help the member states of the African Union reduce the risk of loss and damage caused by extreme weather events affecting African populations.
“But there’s so much more work that still needs to go into reaching as many people as possible to help build the resilience of local communities and ensure they have the means to bounce back whenever they are impacted by a natural disaster,” concludes Ndlovu.
World Poultry Foundation (WPF) launches video series to help Africa’s farmers improve poultry production
With poultry increasingly a focus for emerging farmers across Africa, the US-based World Poultry Foundation (WPF) has released a series of training videos to help farmers reduce waste and optimise profits.
Feed accounts for up to 70% of the costs of raising poultry, so proper feeding techniques enable farmers to reduce waste, cut production costs and raise healthier birds, says WPF. Water is equally important in poultry farming, with proper water management crucial for healthy birds.
WPF’s training series, with four videos dedicated to production, explains how farmers should store feed, proper feeding of poultry and how to prepare and manage zones of comfort to encourage proper brooding for chicks. The videos also explain the importance of litter in helping to prevent common diseases to improve production and returns.
World Poultry Foundation CEO Randall Ennis says the video series has been developed to address the most common challenges faced by emerging poultry farmers across Africa. “By applying best practice poultry farming methods, farmers can significantly increase their production, their incomes, and the nutrition available to their families and communities,” he says.
The training videos, as well as free checklists and worksheets, are available here
AFEX Raises $50Million for Agri-SMEs, Africa’s First Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper
AFEX CEO, Ayodeji Balogun (Source: AFEX)
AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited (AFEX), Nigeria’s leading private commodities exchange company, has announced the first Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper in Africa, with tech-enabled operations and a 24-hour fast cash turnaround for borrowers. With over $50 million raised for Agri-SMEs, this bridges the funding gap between lenders and borrowers in the Nigerian agricultural sector with a commodity-backed instrument – for the first time.
The AFEX financing deal will help eradicate the high cost of procurement incurred by processors by deploying a discounted value of a warehouse receipt distributed among five leading players in the Food and Beverage, Trading Poultry and Animal Feed segments in Nigeria. The receiving companies are top 10 players in their respective segments. They have now been enabled access to a tool for managing price volatility, enabling up to 30% direct savings on prices.
“With our vision to reach a cumulative total of over $5 Billion in investment to the agriculture sector over the next five years, this financing deal is right on track to achieve this goal’’ – said Ayodeji Balogun, CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange. “As we move towards building a derivatives market in Africa, we want to be able to reduce exposure to price risk for stakeholders, by enabling them to hedge their positions and trade in commodity derivatives.”
The warehouse receipts, which can then be transferred from commodities to a financial asset and listed under the borrower’s portfolio on the AFEX trading platform, will create a sustainable funding structure and address underfunding in the Nigerian agricultural sector. With the warehouse receipt system linked to financiers, the system allows financiers value and marks the commodities’ price to market on a real-time basis.
“Our mission is to provide low-risk working capital facility for stakeholders in the Agro sector, in a way that is transparent and has a very high viable investment return’’ – said Akinyinka Akintunde, VP Financial Markets at AFEX. “As a licensed commodities exchange and warehouse receipt system operator, we deploy a warehouse receipt system and collateral management infrastructure to increase market confidence for both lenders and borrower.”With AFEX’s goal to support Africa’s food security while promoting a fair exchange of value among players in commodity value chains, this deal’s social impact is delivered through market access for farmers and reduced post-harvest losses. AFEX continues to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 5 and 8; no
poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, decent work, and economic growth.