Date of RUAF intervention: 2007-ongoing
Introduction | Types of UA | MPAP in Gampaha | FSTT | Products | Contact
INTRODUCTION: CITY CONTEXT
The City of Gampaha is a rapidly growing city in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. It is located in Gampaha District, the second most populous district in the country, home to 12 per cent of the total population in the country. A decade ago, the landscape of Gampaha was dominated by agriculture. With good soil conditions and a surplus of water the agricultural economy has been booming. Today much of the city area is being taken over by buildings. Rapid urbanisation has posed a number of problems, including congestion, increased garbage and environmental pollution, drainage and increase in food prices.
The Gampaha City reported a total population of over 300,000 inhabitants in 2001, a number that has since increased. An additional 100,000 people travel daily to the city for schooling and work. Gampaha is one of the districts with the lowest poverty indicators (8.7 per cent in 2008).
TYPES OF URBAN AGRICULTURE IN GAMPAHA
Agriculture in Gampaha benefits from a tropical climate with an average annual temperature of 28ºC and an annual rainfall of 2400 mm. Paddy cultivation has always taken a prominent place in and around the city, although many fields have been abandoned, due to high input costs and lack of labour. In order to safeguard the country’s food security, however, the national government has prohibited the sale of agricultural land for construction and has ordered, by presidential directive, the revitalisation of agricultural lands back into paddy cultivation or their conversion into production of vegetables, fruits and commercial crops like manioc. As part of the national ‘grow more food campaign’ (Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu) incentives are being given to farmers to take these paddy lands into cultivation again.
Since the year 2000, the Western Province Department of Agriculture has been promoting and establishing home-gardens and Family Business Gardens in Gampaha to meet the nutritional needs of the population, to generate income for underserved communities and to contribute to the greening of the city. With the city’s increased garbage generation at 55 tons per day, the city has launched a successful recycling programme and generates compost to be used in floriculture and home gardens. Awareness and educational programmes in schools on home gardening and food security are being implemented with a view to ensuring a clean, green and food secure city for the future. School gardens are also being promoted, and serve as models to encourage students to participate in agricultural activities from a young age. It is estimated that at least 1100 families living within the city limits are involved in home gardening, while an additional 25-30 are estimated to practice more commercial (small-scale) forms of agriculture.
Urban agriculture is mentioned in three national (agricultural) policy documents, related to the establishment of city home gardens and supporting women in cities to develop capacity for such activities. In this context, several promotional activities, including awareness and training programmes, have been developed by the Department of Agriculture under different funding schemes. However, this had never been done in a comprehensive way, and many issues unique to urban agriculture have never been addressed, including the need for limited space growing techniques, recycling of household waste and water, and disease and pest problems.
Manioc production Agriculture activities in schools
MULTISTAKEHOLDER POLICYMAKING AND ACTION PLANNING ON URBAN AGRICULTURE IN GAMPAHA
In 2007, key institutions and stakeholders from the city and provincial government and from civil society started the process of further analysis of the forms of and actors involved in urban agriculture in the city, with the support of IWMI/RUAF. Their overall vision was to ‘create a cleaner, greener and more food secure city by promoting and strengthening urban agriculture’.
Stakeholder inventory and awareness
Given the unique requirements of city farming, the need for a multi-stakeholder approach was endorsed by the stakeholders involved. This was aimed especially towards strengthening multi-sectoral cohesion, avoiding duplication of activities and competition for resources, and building on the diverse capabilities of the different organisations involved. The MPAP process was introduced at a time when each of the sectors were separately discussing issues such as food security and waste management, with the health department observing nutritional disorders and disease aspects, the educational sector thinking of how to engage youth in agriculture, the water department looking at conservation and recycling, the municipality aiming to reduce garbage collection by promoting recycling of household waste and the Department of Agriculture promoting home gardens. The MPAP was the first attempt to take joint action on urban agriculture activities.
A policy awareness and partner’s orientation workshop was organised in May 2007, where eight organisations agreed to collaborate on the situation analysis and suggest further action planning for urban agriculture. The representative members, forming the Nagarika Haritha Balakaya or ‘Urban Green Force’, were nominated by their respective heads of department, namely the provincial departments of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Health Services and Education, the central government managed department of Agrarian Development and Botanical Gardens, the Municipal Council and the city Sanasa Bank.
Identifying constraints and opportunities to urban agriculture development
The situation analysis, comprising land use mapping, participatory farming system analysis and critical policy review, was implemented in six of Gampaha’s 33 GN (Grama Niladhari) divisions (the smallest administrative unit), namely Medagama I, II, III, IV and Bendiyamulla North and East. The analysis highlighted several constraints to further development of urban agriculture, including:
inadequate capacity and knowledge on appropriate urban agriculture production systems and technologies (like low-space/no-space technologies for production on very small areas of land and new production systems like floriculture and mushroom cultivation, including pests and diseases management);
• lack of good seeds and seedlings for all types of crops;
• lack of capital to start-up agricultural activities: such as cultivation material and inputs;
• low entrepreneurial skills among farmers;
• lack of proper drainage and irrigation for paddy cultivation, as Gampaha is prone to flooding;
• limited knowledge and lack of interest in recycling household waste;
• limited knowledge on daily nutritional requirements and low cost home-grown products.
low space no space technologies
Opportunities included the availability of (abandoned areas of) land, the presence and commitment of municipal and provincial government services to support urban agriculture and the presence of a national policy framework promoting such development.
The results of this situation analysis were presented and shared with a broader audience in the form of a policy briefing document in December 2007. This laid the basis for further action planning in 2008.
Building the institutional framework
The Urban Green Force met once every month, and was chaired by the Mayor of Gampaha. This direct involvement of the Mayor and various municipal departments proved to be very beneficial, as municipal facilities and services could now be better coordinated and directly made available through the forum in benefit of the Gampaha citizens. As a result of stakeholder analysis and awareness raising, new stakeholders became involved in the process, including NGOs, schools and private enterprises. A larger multi-stakeholder forum was set up that currently meets every three months. In addition, a high level steering committee has been formed with the heads of the core forum member institutions, in order to assure commitment, liaise between the project activities of the different institutions, and discuss the future development and uptake of urban agriculture programmes in their respective institutions.
A City Strategic Agenda
One of the first activities of the Urban Green Force comprised the elaboration of a City Strategic Agenda on Urban Agriculture. They identified four major objectives to which the Strategic Agenda should respond:
- to promote and support a culture of sustainable urban agriculture in Gampaha municipality;
- to revitalise the (abandoned) paddy farming systems and develop strategies to improve productivity with innovative farming practices that harmonise with nature and improve access to paddy lands for those who are keen on farming;
- to reduce environmental pollution and health concerns by proper management of city infrastructure for drainage;
- to strengthen marketing of urban agriculture production – both within the city as well as outside the city.
For each of these objectives, different interventions and activities were outlined, responsibilities were clarified, and local as well as external funding sources were indicated. The agenda was formally accepted by the MSF steering committee in April 2009.
Project and policy formulation and implementation
The MSF members have actively supported project and policy formulation and implementation of the following activities mentioned in the City Strategic Agenda.
- Training; The Department of Agriculture (Extension) Gampaha has trained over 30 community leaders from each of the six Divisions, in crop management and household organic waste recycling. These leaders together with agriculture extension officers supported community groups in the divisions in implementation. The extension officers visited the participating households and farming sites regularly.
- Establishment of home gardens; The multi-stakeholder forum developed the project ‘Greening of Gampaha City through Urban Agriculture’. Home gardens were established in 500 households (75 low-income and 425 low to middle income households) in the six administrative divisions. All households (in total 2,000 persons) received training on home gardening including land preparation, use of low-space requirement technologies, planting and pest management. Extension support was provided by the Department for Agriculture Extension.
- Composting at household level; In an attempt to manage the vast amounts of garbage being generated in the city, the Central Environmental Authority, the Western province waste management authority and the Municipality, launched a programmes Kunu Kasalata milak or ‘Money for your waste’. The programme included segregation of waste at household level, waste collection, home composting of biodegradable waste and biogas production. Over 4,000 composting bins were distributed to city homes and around 60 per cent of recipients are making compost at home now, which has resulted in the reduction of garbage collection by nearly 10 tonnes per day.
- Support services; The Department of Agriculture supported the abovementioned projects. For instance, a sales outlet for input materials was established in six of the divisions, six demonstration plots were established on the sites of the Municipal council, at the Sanasa society, at a hospital (and at three schools to showcase organic production and waste recycling methods, and advertise the abovementioned projects).
- Value-chain development; see below FSTT
- Upscaling project activities to other administrative divisions and cities; The Western Provence is currently funding similar home gardening and composting programmes in the 27 remaining administrative units in Gampaha city. It is expected that in total additional 1600 households will benefit from this city-wide programme. Additionally, the programme will be expanded to other cities, including districts of Colombo and Kalutara.
Results and outcomes
The urban agriculture programme has positively contributed to household food security, savings and nutrition. Findings for the initial projects in the six divisions show a high percentage of women (63 per cent) engaged in kitchen garden activities. An increase in the vegetable consumption has also been observed, which is linked to the increase in the number of types of vegetables grown in the gardens (from 6 to 11 types). In addition, average household savings of 15 per cent (by growing food for home consumption) have been observed, and 8 per cent of the participating households registered increases in their cash income from 1-5 per cent, through the sale of crops.
The project has also sparked off healthy social trends such as the exchange of surplus produce with neighbours and improved social interaction, all of which had been rare occurrences in the past.
Moreover, the programme has contributed to the city’s waste management. Daily, 10 tons of waste is now being recycled in the form of compost, thereby reducing costs for garbage collection for the municipality. This compost is made available to farming households through sales outlets set up in 6 of the 33 divisions. Savings are now used by the Municipality for funding welfare activities, such as housing loans and educational loans. In this sense the MPAP has enforced/improved the ongoing initiative of the different departments, by facilitating joint analysis, planning and liaising activities.
Continuation of planning and activities in Gampaha is guaranteed by the formalisation of the forum and the City Strategic Agenda and the formation of the high-level steering committee. Efforts taken by the Western Province Department of Agriculture to upscale activities within Gampaha and to other cities form a good example.
The process and experiences in Gampaha have directly contributed to the promotion of urban agriculture at provincial and at national level, and has provided examples of initiatives that can be developed to increase domestic food production as promoted by the national government in its ‘National Campaign to Motivate Domestic Food Production 2007-2010’ (see the box).
Gampaha’s experiences and results are mentioned in a cabinet paper. Both the Chief Secretary of the Western Provincial Council as well as the Presidential Task Force for Domestic Food Production, have given special recognition to the RUAF supported Gampaha programme for its achievements and its operationalisation of the national strategy on food production (personal letter to IWMI/RUAF by the Chief Secretary of the Western Provincial Council, dated April 16, 2009) and have praised the programme for providing evidence of impacts and outcomes. This recognition has been a boost to the Gampaha stakeholders, and further strengthens them in their commitment to continue better serving their city communities.
FROM SEED TO TABLE (FSTT)
Starting in 2009, the programme has expanded its focus from home gardening to other more commercial forms of urban agriculture. Market analysis has indicated the potential for commercial chilli growing. As from 2009 some 100 families have started to produce high quality green chilli (Capsicum anum) variety MI2 and Veraniya, applying eco-friendly agricultural practices, to supply to the Gampaha vegetable market as well as to the export market. Seeds and technical advice are provided by the Department for Agriculture Extension in Gampaha. The Gampaha City Bank (Sanasa City Bank and People’s Bank) provides financial advice and will grant loans to farmers.
After the project planning phase of first six months from February to June 2009 the project has moved to its implementation phase in July. During the project planning stage, producer groups with market potential were identified. Most of the farmers are part-time farmers while having small lands for cultivation. These urban producer groups in Gampaha have selected to innovate their production and marketing of green chillies by introducing quality seeds, integrated nutrient management, the formation of producer clusters and the establishment of a common collection and marketing centre.
The various inputs suppliers, service providers, producers & marketers and inter-relations were mapped to select what are the areas to be improved by technical and marketing innovations.
As an affiliated body to the Department of Agriculture, the Urban Agriculture Entrepreneurs Development Association has been established, which consists of producers from 10 cluster groups in 11 GN divisions in the Gampaha Municipal Council area.
To start the activities of the first cropping cycle of chilli, each producer has prepared business plans which include physical, natural, organizational and financial input requirements. Technical and organizational capacity building has started by launching Urban Producer Field School programme and it will be conducted as a joint programme with Department of Agriculture. The UPFS provides hands on experiences of chilli cultivation by adopting ecological principals. As a start up activity, healthy seedlings, composts and 70% of the required pots were provided by the project. Compost was provided as an interest free loan which will be paid back during the harvesting period. Meanwhile group formation is ongoing since these farmers were not formally organised.
Nearly 20,000 plants have been cultivated by 93 producers and the first harvest will be expected in October 2009. 200 Kg/day of Green Chilli should be provided to the whole sale buyer once the harvesting period started. Therefore, the second crop cycle of the Chilli should be established in October 2009. Producers will produce the nursery plants and compost (at least 30% of the total requirement) required for 2nd cycle.
For more information on the RUAF-Cities Farming for the Future Programme in the region, contact the regional coordinator at RUAF South and South East Asia or see their website.
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