Growing food in Greener Cities

Growing Greener Cities (FAO) - coverBy 2025, more than half of the developing world’s population – an estimated 3.5 billion people – will be urban. For policy makers and urban planners in poor countries, greener cities could be the key to ensuring safe, nutritious food, sustainable livelihoods and healthier communities. The concept of "Green Cities" is usually associated with urban planning in the more developed world. But it has a special application, and significantly different social and economic dimensions in developing countries. In developing countries, rapid urban growth is being driven not by economic opportunity but by high birth rates and a mass influx of rural people seeking to escape hunger, poverty and insecurity. By 2020, the proportion of the urban population living in poverty could reach 45 percent, or 1.4 billion people. By then, 85 percent of poor people in Latin America, and almost half of those in Africa and Asia, will be concentrated in towns and cities.

The challenge is to steer urbanization from its current, unsustainable path, towards greener cities that offer their inhabitants choice, opportunity and hope. One solution is the urban and peri-urban horticulture. We estimate that 130 million of urban residents in Africa and 230 million in Latin America are engage in agriculture, mainly in horticulture, to provide food for their families or to earn income from sales. Horticulture, in addition to contribute to the food security with high nutritional value, has short production cycles and high yields per unit of time, land and water. Fruits and vegetables are rich in micronutrients. They increase the supply of fresh, nutritious produce and improve the urban poor’s economic access to food.

FAO supports the city gardeners of developing countries by providing assistance trough inputs (tools, seeds) and training through school gardens. In developing countries, FAO helps the governments to promote irrigated commercial market gardening on urban peripheries, hydroponic micro-gardens, and green rooftops in densely populated city centres. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the assistance of Belgium, FAO advised on measures that regularized titles to 1 600 ha of garden areas operated by some 20 000 full-time growers in five cities. The project introduced improved vegetable varieties and installed or upgraded irrigation structures, which extended water availability throughout the year. To ensure the quality and safety of produce, growers’ associations were trained in good agricultural practices, including the use of organic fertilizer and bio-pesticides. Market gardens in Kinshasa now produce an estimated 75 000 to 85 000 tonnes of vegetables a year, or 65 percent of the city’s supply.

Additional information on greener cities can be obtained from