“Food first” is a watchword throughout the world nowadays. One international conference is being held after another to discuss the issue of hunger. However, many events are also being held to address climate change, which affects food security as well as migration. Today, a lot of people are moving to urban areas to improve their living standards because many of life’s necessities are better maintained in an urban than in a rural setting. As a consequence, the demand for amenities, food, security, etc. is now threatening these areas. This prompts me to outline some approaches that I feel will make a difference in ensuring adequate food for the urban population.
Converting specific areas: In most urban regions, sufficient farmland to feed some of the population there is hard to find. In some cities, however, many areas are converted from one use to another, although nobody thinks of using such areas for agricultural purposes. For instance, in Germany, the airport of Berlin-Tempelhof was closed in 2008 and was converted into a public park. Why not into farmland? At least it would feed some of the urban population. Besides, farmland could sequester some of the carbon dioxide in the city.
Build bigger: I think that some of the structures in the city, whether for residential or office purposes, should be conceived on a larger scale in order to accommodate more people, since this will require less land than building many houses throughout the city for just a few people would. Buildings accommodating more people would mean more land available for growing vegetables and fruit in the cities.
Decongestion of urban areas: Some industries in urban areas could just as well survive outside these areas, although most of them developed when the cities were not yet full-grown. As urbanisation has now encroached on their location, they need to be relocated elsewhere, perhaps in new industrial parks. All other sectors of industry should have industrial parks in semi-urban areas, and the vacant lots could then be used to feed the urban population. Museum, zoos, football stadiums and the like in the city centres need to move to semi-urban or rural areas to make land available for agriculture.
New plans for emerging cities: The city planners should provide a considerable amount of land for agriculture when planning any new city. Plans for cities without at least a quarter of their area earmarked for agriculture can be regarded as ill-conceived.
Little support from the rural areas: It is not the responsibility of the people living in the rural areas to feed the urban dwellers. And since more and more people are migrating to the cities, the dwindling rural population will only support a small share of the food demand in urban areas.
Rural development: The rural dwellers also need good roads, water, security, good health, etc. So it is important to develop infrastructure in the rural areas to encourage people to make a living there by working for farms or agricultural companies, which would keep them from migrating to the cities.
Liveability of the city: By and by, the liveability of a city should be graded based on its capacity and readiness to feed the people in the area. It is true that a lot of factors have to be considered when it comes to measuring city liveability, but the amount of food the urban population produce for themselves has to be one of these factors. If you haven’t got good food on your table, you haven’t really got anything.
Author: Uzondu Emmanuel Muoedu is a soil scientist/agriculturist based in Nkpor, Anambra/Nigeria.