Urban farming prospects grow despite hurdles - Daily Nation

Urban farming prospects grow despite hurdles

Saturday May 31 2014

While there are fears that food grown in urban areas using waste water may be polluted, experts say some farmers know how to keep their crops safe

While there are fears that food grown in urban areas using waste water may be polluted, experts say some farmers know how to keep their crops safe 

By DOROTHY KWEYU
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Not so long ago, Nairobi County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Livestock Development and Fisheries Anne Lokidor expressed concern over the heavy pollution of the city’s rivers and implications for urban farming.

“The reason why Nairobi River is polluted,” she told Seeds of Gold, “is that most industries discharge their waste into it. Even if it’s sewage that is discharged, it should pass through a central point where it is cleaned completely before it is channelled to the river.”

This is not being done, she added, prompting discussions with her environment counterpart, former Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo, whom, she said, was in talks with National Environment Management Authority to address the issue alongside the city’s Department of Public Health.

Not mentioned by Lokidor, are the industrialists, given that there are laws in place to prevent pollution of river courses.

They also have corporate social responsibility that ought to take into account the many poor urban farmers and downstream communities, for whom the city’s rivers are a means of livelihood.

So, what is urban farming? It the cultivation and distribution of food in or around a village, town or city. Hampwaye G., Neil E and Ingombe L. in their book, The role of urban agriculture in addressing household poverty and food security: The case of Zambia, bring its various practices into the equation — animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping and horticulture. Its cross-cutting nature means that it cannot be left to one county.

It is in this regard that Lokidor says: “We cannot allow the farmers to grow their crops there until the river is cleaned.” And yet, hers is more as an aspiration than a practicability, as she hastened to point out that before they put a stop to riverside vegetable-growing, they have to take farmers’ interests into account.

“When you take something from someone,” she said, “You should be able to give them something back.”

From July, she said, urban farmers in the heavily-polluted areas such as Kibera, would be given moist gardens. “We are still in the process of identifying other beneficiaries so that they can begin growing vegetables in moist and hanging gardens and flowerpots.” That way, you don’t just deny the urban farmers their source of livelihood — the riverbeds — but you give them back something which is safer and clean,” the officer said.

She added that the cleaning of Nairobi River is at the procurement stage.

Lokidor is not the only one concerned about crop pollution in urban farming. In a recent interview, Agriculture Principal Secretary Sicily Kariuki told Seeds of Gold that the ministry has been developing a national urban farming policy since 2009.

The objective of the Urban Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Policy is to promote and regulate environmentally sustainable methods of improving incomes, food security, creating employment, enhancing living standards and reducing poverty.

Public health concerns that Lokidor expresses are captured in the draft policy, which will also address issues of land use and environmental management. In this regard, a specific aim of the policy is to promote conservation of the environment by management of waste and other pollutants, t