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Rurban Territories: Cities Feeding People

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Kudakwashe Mutsonziwa
University of Greenwich | UK
Urban Agriculture in Africa has become a survival strategy for many to provide substance for home consumption and agrarian entrepreneurialism. Although most Urban Agriculture in African cities is on a small-scale, one has to wonder if it is possible for it to be considered as a viable long-term option to greatly reduce food insecurity and poverty in these cities on a permanent basis.

Cities like Harare in Zimbabwe have undergone a large influx of urban agricultural activities all over the city, from inner city districts to rural-urban fringes. On recent trips to Harare I observed maize fields sprouting just about anywhere one could get away with it, as well as food vending activities along many roadsides. However architectural and urban planning laws have been slow to respond to this growing demand for space and resources to accommodate farming.

Urban Agriculture and its role in sustainable development have primarily been regarded from its ecological, social and economical dimensions, while spatial issues remain sidelined. But the question about space provisions for Urban Agriculture is crucial in Harare. Like most African cities, Urban Agriculture in Harare has social and economical merits, but has many failings in its spatial context. These failings, as discussed in my thesis, revealed amongst other problems large-scale environmental degradation and land conflicts in some districts.

The thesis aims to reveal opportunities to redefine spatial allocations to accommodate viable food production measures in Harare. Through an analysis of the current characteristics of informal sector activities related to food production, I discuss opportunities for implementing a host of architectural interventions and urban design strategies related to sustainable city development that could boost agrarian activities in Harare without becoming an environmental and social liability.

With this in mind, the dissertation deals mainly with the importance of spatial allocations and patterns, appropriate infrastructure, and optimum density distribution concerning Urban Agriculture. The dissertation concludes with the suggestion of observation-based strategies to better include and locate farming activities within the built environment, in order to establish a more self reliant and successful food production in Harare.

Kudakwashe Mutsonziwa

Urban sustainability and issues of ‘lifestyle’ are intertwined in the western dialectics of urbanism – with a growing recognition by all that if the highest levels of environmental sustainability are to be achieved the car in it’s current dominant incarnation has to be largely abandoned in favour of more and better judged public transport and a closer relationship between living and work and, pace Milton Keynes, between home and social and cultural exchange.

Allotments, dachas and Schreber gardens have all had complex ambitions and realities in terms of health, exercise and the growing of plants to sustain these things visually and physically over time. Over time, too, the emphases change – from temporary escape to a rurban idyll, to the means to maintain life with basic agricultural products.

The global, regional and local movements of food and the unnatural harvesting and chilling/refrigeration associated with this in our times, become energy consumption too far, and whilst urban agriculture will never entirely support city dwellers, examples from Africa, Asia, Central and South America and even the contemporary ‘developed’ nations show that a contribution can be made, whilst beneficially ‘greening’ our cities.

The issues around urban agriculture will inevitable concern many disciplines and their interrelationships and could form the focus for many studies which should properly start with the way we live now and how we sustain ourselves, whether on 1USD or 1,000 USD’s per day.

This is a well-presented, well-researched and committed piece of work. The examples shown demonstrate how difficult it is for various authorities to equitably regulate, authorize or promote urban agriculture – and yet they must. The study is enriched and contextualized by a critique of the ‘compact city’ model promoted so much in the ‘west’ – not just for reducing unnecessary transport movement, but also predicated by the need for access for all to ‘downtown’ and the ‘CBD’ (Central Business District). Urban agriculture and the communities it supports, challenge through the focus of their lives, this western preoccupation.

Braden Engel
Richard Hayward
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