Notes to broadcasters
Content: You can improve life in the city for yourself and your family by growing food to eat and sell. With no land of your own, and little space, you can become a successful city farmer
When you think of growing food, do you think only of large farms out in the country? Do you think of fields and open spaces? Think again! You can grow crops and raise livestock right in the city.
Growing food in the city is sometimes called “urban agriculture.” City people all over the world are discovering how urban agriculture can improve their lives.
For you, urban agriculture might mean keeping some chickens and selling their eggs. Or it might mean getting together with neighbours to start a community garden in a nearby vacant lot or unused park. A mother who pays her children’s school fees by selling vegetables that she grows in her backyard is a city farmer. People are learning how to make every little bit of space produce food and income!
What is so good about farming in the city? First of all, it saves you money. Buying food is expensive. If you grow some of your own food, you will not have to spend as much money. Farming in the city can also earn you money. Growing and preparing food for the market can provide another income for your family.
Also, the food brought into city markets is not always fresh. By the time it gets to the city, the fruit is bruised and the greens are wilted, so they do not contain as many vitamins and minerals as they did when they were first picked. If you grow your own food, you will have fruit, vegetables, and meat that is fresh and healthy. You will have more control over the quality of what you and your children eat.
But how can you farm in the city? Getting started in urban agriculture means seeing the space around you with new eyes. There are no open fields, and you may not even have a yard. But you can grow fruit and vegetables on balconies, patios, and rooftops. You can grow corn, melons, or potatoes in parks, tiny house yards, vacant lots, in the schoolyard, or along roadsides. You can grow tomatoes, lettuce, or spices in a box or bucket, an old tire or a plastic bag hung on a nail. You can keep chickens in a backyard shed, or rabbits in cages stored on a shelf.
You might think that you cannot farm as well in the city as you can in the country. But the fact is that even the smallest spaces can become productive if you learn how to make the most of them. The methods that city farmers use often produce much more on each square metre than the traditional methods which are used on farms in the country.
For most city farmers, urban agriculture is a part-time enterprise. But it really works! And sometimes, people who start off small, in a part-time way, end up building a good business for themselves. Bob Sandino, in Jakarta, Indonesia, is a good example. In 1970, when Bob Sandino finished high school, he started selling eggs door to door. The eggs came from chicks which he raised on his parents back veranda. The next year, he began selling day-old chicks. The year after that, he started selling chickens ready to cook. Two years later, he opened a small store, and in 1974 he started a factory where chickens are killed and prepared for market.
Now Bob Sandino runs a supermarket and a restaurant. He also grows and processes meat and vegetables which he sells in Indonesia and exports to other countries. His small urban agriculture venture turned into a big success.
Urban agriculture is especially important for women. It is a perfect way for women to make money. It can be done at any time of the day, so women can fit it into their busy schedules even though they may have children and homes to look after. And a woman does not need to own private land to become a city farmer.
In a shantytown called Jerusalem, near Bogota, Colombia, 100 women operate a garden co-operative. They grow vegetables which they sell to local supermarkets. Their co-operative began in 1986, when three of them got together and began growing vegetables to sell. They were all poor, and none of them had garden plots. So, with support from the United Nations, they learned to grow vegetables using a method called hydroponic gardening. Hydroponic gardening is a way to grow plants without soil. The women in the co-operative now earn two or three times more from selling their vegetables than their husbands earn in their jobs. Urban agriculture has made a big difference in these women’s lives.
Growing your own food in the city will benefit you and your family directly by improving your diet and increasing your income. And it will also benefit you in other ways that are not quite so obvious.
If you moved to the city from the country, you probably noticed that the city is dirtier and more polluted than the country. The air is not clean, the streets are often dirty, and everything is close and crowded. Sometimes it is ugly. Imagine what the city would look like if everybody decided to become a city farmer. Everywhere there would be little parks full of cornstalks, vines, and fruit trees. Every balcony would overflow with green. Each rooftop would look like a garden. The city would be a more pleasant place. And it would be cleaner, too, because all those plants would cut down on dust and dirt in the air. That would help make the city a healthier place to live.
So how do you get started in urban agriculture? You will need to do some planning. You will have to decide what kind of city farming is best for you. Do you have a small yard, or know of some unused land that you might be able to turn into a garden? Maybe you can buy a few rabbits or guinea pigs. Or maybe you can grow some spinach or tomatoes in an old tire next to your house, or on your balcony. Think about the possibilities! Urban agriculture is the way of the future for people who live in cities. As a city farmer, you can make the city a better place to live for you and your family.
Jace Smit, RCD Consultants, 1711 Lamont Street N.W., Washington D.C., 20010, U.S.A.
City Food: Crop Selection in Third World Cities, by Isabel Wade (1986, 54 pages), published by Urban Resource Systems, Inc., 783 Buena Vista West, San Francisco, California, 94117, U.S.A.