Urban Farming

The importance of agriculture cannot be gainsaid as far as the health
of any economy is concerned. Indeed, agriculture or farming determines
the health of individuals as everything that they consume would have to
emanate from the activity. This would underline the reason as to why
immense amounts of research have been dedicated towards enhancing the
efficiency and overall productivity of agricultural farms. However,
agriculture, since time immemorial, has always been presumed as being
mainly done in rural areas. Indeed, it is considerably difficult to come
across any food crop or even any plant in urban areas unless it is
simply planted for aesthetic purposes (Mougeot, 2006). On the same note,
animals are only reared in urban areas if they are pets. Recent times,
nevertheless, has seen the increase in farming activities in urban
areas. This is primarily what is referred to as urban farming. While
there may be varying opinions as to the efficacy of urban farming, it is
evident that it is more advantageous that destructive.
Urban farming underlines the raising of animals and growing of crops
around and within cities. It revolves around the practice of
cultivating, processing, as well as distributing food substances around
or in a town, village or city (Carpenter & Rosenthal, 2011). The
fundamental feature of urban farming that differentiates it from urban
agriculture revolves around the fact that us is integrated within the
ecological and urban economic system, which means that it is embedded in
and interacts with an area’s urban ecosystem (Carpenter & Rosenthal,
2011). These linkages may include the utilization of urban residents as
workers or laborers, direct connections with the urban consumers, use of
basic urban resources such as urban wastewater for irrigation and
organic waste as manure, competing with other urban functions for land,
being a component of the urban food system, as well as being influenced
by urban plans and policies among other linkages (Schumann, 2011). Of
particular note is the fact that urban agriculture is not a remnant of
the past that would eventually be expected to fade away, rather it
increases with growth of the urban area (Cottrell & McNichols, 2011). On
the same note it is not brought about by rural immigrants that would
eventually get rid of their rural habits with time.
Urban agriculture may be further specified through an examination of
varied dimensions. First, an examination of the type of actors that are
involved in urban farming reveals that it is primarily undertaken by the
urban poor (Mougeot, 2006). Contrary to the widely held view, the key
actors are usually not individuals that have recently immigrated from
rural areas especially considering that the urban farmer would still
require some time to access urban land, water, as well as other
productive resources (Schumann, 2011). In a large number of cities, it
is likely that an individual would find lower and mid-level workers
taking part in urban agriculture, not to mention some richer individuals
that are seeking for a worthy investment for their capital (Mougeot,
2006). Of particular note is the fact that women make up a fundamental
component of urban families especially considering that agriculture and
other associated selling and processing activities may be more easily
blended with other activities in the household (Schumann, 2011).
However, it is extremely difficult to blend the same with urban jobs
that need travelling to the industrial areas, turn centers or even the
houses of the wealthy.
In addition, urban farming is more specified with regard to the type of
products that are grown. Varied types of crops and animals, as well as
non-food products such as medicinal herbs, aromatic herbs, tree products
and ornamental plants may be produced in urban farms or even their
combination. In most cases, the more relatively high-valued and
perishable animal products, by-products and vegetables are favored
(Redwood, 2009). Urban farming differs from rural farming in the fact
that the former is significantly more specialized than the later, with
exchanges taking place in the production units. Moreover, urban farming
is more specified with regard to the economic or production activities
and the related marketing and processing activities, inputs, and service
delivery by micro enterprises (Cottrell & McNichols, 2011). It is noted
that marketing and production in urban agriculture is more closely
interrelated with regard to the space and time than is the case for
rural agriculture due to more geographic proximity, as well as faster
flow of resources (Redwood, 2009).
Advantages of urban farming
Urban farming comes with numerous benefits stretching from economic,
through environmental and even health benefits.
First, urban farming complements efforts towards environmental and
resource conservation. This is especially with regard to the recycling
of waste products in the urban areas. A large number of urban areas have
been struggling with problems pertaining to disposal of waste water, as
well as biodegradable waste products (Nordahl, 2009). Urban farming
allows for the use of the organic materials as compost manure, while the
waste water is used in irrigation. This allows for enhancement of
environmental cleanliness, as well as recycling and conservation of
valuable resources.
On the same note, urban farming plays an immense role in reducing air
pollution in urban areas. This is especially with regard to reduction of
the amount of fuel that would have been used in obtaining the
agricultural products from the rural areas (Nordahl, 2009). In addition,
urban farming creates carbon sinks that offset some of the carbon
accumulation in urban areas where plants are outnumbered by buildings
and pavements. The plants, in this regard, absorb the atmospheric carbon
dioxide and convert it to breathable oxygen, thereby enhancing the
quality of air that individuals in the urban areas breathe.
In addition, urban farming results in a reduction in the costs of
foodstuffs in urban areas. It goes without saying that the further away
the business people obtain foodstuffs the higher the price of the same
would be. However, urban farming involves the production of these
foodstuffs in or around the cities and towns, in which case there is a
reduction in the cost of transport and, subsequently, the cost of the
foodstuffs (Redwood, 2009). This makes these foods more affordable to
urban dwellers. Moreover, the idle pieces of land in urban areas would
be put into use, thereby allowing for an increase in the economic
welfare and alleviating the poverty of urban dwellers.
On the same note, the reduced cost of these foodstuffs would mean that
urban dwellers would have increased capacity to consume them, which
eventually results in an increase in their nutrition and quality of food
(Redwood, 2009). As stated earlier, urban farming primarily concerns
itself with perishable and fast-moving products such as vegetables and
fruits, as well as farm animals. This means that the daily intake of
vegetables and fruits among the urban population would increase, thereby
resulting in a reduction in the risk of chronic ailments such as cancer,
heart disease and diabetes (Tracey, 2011).
Disadvantages of urban farming
However, urban farming may have some negative aspects. Urban farming
may involve the use of waste water in irrigating the crops. Rarely is
this waste water subjected to careful monitoring and treatment, in which
case it may result in the spread if ailments among the urban dwellers
(Carpenter, 2009). On the same note, waste products such as manure from
animals may eventually pile up and result in contamination of the water
resources in urban areas, not to mention becoming an eyesore in urban
areas (Tracey, 2011).
On the same note, the cultivation of food products on contaminated
areas may represent a health hazard for urban dwellers especially the
consumers of such products (Carpenter, 2009). This is also the case in
instances where plants are cultivated along roadsides as it would expose
the food products to car pollution (Johnson, 2010).
Nevertheless, it is evident that urban farming is way more advantageous
than disadvantages. The key objection to urban farming revolves around
the disposal of animal manure, which some individuals state that it may
eventually be an eyesore in urban areas and even contaminate them
(Pearson, 2010). However, such waste products from farms are almost
always ploughed back to farming activities especially in instances where
animal husbandly is combined with crop farming (Pearson, 2010). On the
same note, researchers have underlined the fact that manure is often
dried up and used in cooking as shown in Kisumu town in Kenya. This
would, undoubtedly, result in a reduction in deforestation. Indeed, this
is also the case in instances where animal manure is used in production
of biogas, which is a renewable and environmentally sound source of
energy (Johnson, 2010).
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