STRENGTHENING URBAN FARMERS ORGANISATIONS AND THEIR MARKETING CAPACITIES: FROM SEED TO TABLE
The RUAF programme “From Seed to Table” (RUAF-FSTT) builds on the results of the RUAF- Cities Farming for the Future Programme (RUAF-CFF, 2005-2008) which was funded by DGIS (the Netherlands) and IDRC, with substantial contributions from the regional and local RUAF partners.
For regular updates on the RUAF-FStT programme as well as information on other activities developed by the RUAF Foundation, please click on the following links: RUAF Update 12 (July 2009), RUAF Update 13 (November 2009), RUAF Update 14 (March 2010) and RUAF Update 15 (July 2010).
The From Seed to Table project aims to facilitate the development of sustainable urban farming systems and to contribute to urban poverty alleviation and enhanced urban food security, social inclusion and empowerment of urban disadvantaged groups in 18 partner cities around the world.
Many poor urban household engage in local production of food, food processing and vending and related activities (e.g. compost making, feed supply, etcetera) as main or complementary strategy to secure food supply for their families and/or to earn some cash income. The United Nations Development Programme UNDP estimated in 1996 that 800 million people are engaged in urban agriculture worldwide. Of these, 200 million are considered to be market producers, employing 150 million people full time. Since then, urban poverty and the number of families involved in some kind of urban agriculture have substantially increased.
Urban Agriculture is a noteworthy source of income and savings and often is more profitable than rural-based production. The up and downstream effects of urban agriculture in the local economy can be considerable. Urban agriculture effectively contributes to reduce food insecurity by improving access to fresh and low priced food and raising the nutritional and health status of poor and middle income households (both of the producing families as well as of other poor families in these areas). Other benefits of urban agriculture are related to its potentials for social inclusion of disadvantaged groups, recycling of urban wastes, urban greening and improved urban micro-climates, recreational services for urban citizens, maintaining buffer zones, etcetera.
However, several constraints limit the development of safe and sustainable urban agriculture, including:
- Low degree (or inappropriate) support services (extension services, access to credit, infrastructure development, etcetera) due to an historical lack of recognition by City authorities, urban planners, government institutions, and even the urban producers themselves, of the role and functions of urban and peri-urban agriculture in a developing modern city. As a consequence of this lack of government support and absence to address the mounting problems affecting urban and peri-urban agriculture, low intensity use and even abandonment of urban and peri-urban agricultural lands is growing. To certain extent the services provided to the urban producers applying “rural” models that take insufficiently into account the specific urban opportunities and challenges, requiring specific technologies and new forms of organization. City authorities in the project partner cities in the past few years became increasingly aware that this situation needs adequate policy attention and have started to intensify their support to initiatives (including this project) that seek to convert this trend and bring available lands under more intensive (but sustainable) cultivation.
- Limited access to productive resources and insecure land tenure. Urban agriculture is - to a large extent - being done on land that is not owned by the user: roadsides, riverbanks, along railroads, idle public lands, parks, etc. The use of such areas is, in principle, transitional and user rights are minimal. However, various systems of informal rent, lease and inheritance exist. The quality of the lands to which urban farmers do have access is often very marginal to start with. In combination with the poverty of the majority of the urban farmers and the insecure land-tenure situation, this leads to low investments in the land, low productivity and further deterioration of the soil. Fear of eviction leads people to plant quick-yielding seasonal crops and to avoid investments in soil quality, tree and shrub components, erosion prevention, water-harvesting measures, etc. Next to land, the access to water (especially water of good quality) and nutrients (especially manure and compost of good quality) is crucial to urban farmers, and both are difficult to obtain (although more widely available as in many rural areas). Use of water sources is often informal (e.g. tapping off wastewater disposal pipes and canals).
- Low degree of organisation of the urban producers. Most urban farmers are not organised in a formal way. This limits the representation of their interests in decision making at the various levels and limits their capacities to improve their farming systems and marketing opportunities. It also hampers the development of concerted efforts by urban farmers to engage in processing activities –adding value to their primary products- or to engage in direct marketing to consumers or acquiring an improved position in the marketing chain. Well organised urban producer groups and associations may also play important functions in educating their members, product quality control and enhancing access to credit and other productive resources (including urban organic wastes and treated wastewater).
- Low productivity and profitability. Due to the factors mentioned above the actual productivity and profitability in small scale urban and peri-urban production in many cities is generally low, despite high market demand and sharply increasing food prices. The project aims to enhance local capacities to identify opportunities for enhancing productivity and added value and to implement related technical and organisational innovations.
It is worth mentioning that agriculture is still considered predominantly as a “rural” activity, and this project presents a unique opportunity to address recent challenges such as increased global food prices (India, various African countries), soaring fuel prices (e.g. Jordan experienced a 100% increase in fuel prices in 2008) and security and mobility concerns makes it economically and ecologically sound to re-think the role of Urban Agriculture and its food security, economic and environmental importance.
FROM SEED TO TABLE PROJECT
The ongoing RUAF-CFF programme (2004-2008) is effectively tackling some of the above mentioned constraints, notably the integration in urban policies and programmes and improved access to land, by facilitating capacity development among local authorities and other local stakeholders regarding urban agriculture and facilitating multi-stakeholder policy making and action planning on urban agriculture. This enhanced integration of urban agriculture in urban policies and planning, and stronger participation of urban farmers and other stakeholder in the planning process, that is being realised by RUAF-CFF in the 21 partner cities, is paving the way for coordinated activities of both public and private organisations focussed at supporting poor urban farmers to develop safe and sustainable production, processing and marketing systems. On its turn the FSTT project (2009-2010) will contribute to:
- To enhance the capacities of the different regional Resource centres on Urban Agriculture and Food security and facilitate their consolidation
- To enhance the capacities of local stakeholders (researchers, NGO’s, farmer organisations, a/o) in the RUAF partner cities to engage in joint situation analysis and policy advocacy regarding urban agriculture and the design, implementation and monitoring of sustainable urban agriculture farming and marketing projects
- To enhance the income and food security of farming households by implementing “From Seed to Table” Projects (stimulating the transition from subsistence to more sustainable forms of urban agriculture)
- To strengthen the organisation of urban farmers groups and organisations and their capacities to innovate their farming systems and market chains and participate in multi-stakeholder dialogue and planning (see for example the project Social organisations of urban and peri-urban producers)
- To enhance the access of urban producers to (innovative forms of) credit and financing of urban agriculture activities
- To enhance learning from monitoring: lessons are drawn from the experiences gained in the project and are used in the planning of future activities by RUAF partners at local, regional and international level
- To enhance the capacities of students and staff of NGO’s, farmer organisations, training and research institutes and local governments in empowerment of urban farmer organisations and FSTT approach to Farming System Innovation through distance education
- To enhance access of the subscribers to UA-Magazine and visitors of the websites to up-to-date information on past and recent research and project experiences on Urban Agriculture
- To consolidate the recently established City Multi-stakeholder Forums on Urban Agriculture in the partner cities and advance in national policy formulation on urban agriculture
The logic of the proposed project is summarized in the following figure below:
EXPECTED OUTPUTS AND RESULTS
- The capacities of the RUAF regional resources centre on urban agriculture and food security have been strengthened and their continuity has been secured
- A comprehensive set of training materials has been produced and made available to regional and local trainers
- About 50 staff of NGO’s, farmer organisations, training and research institutes and local governments have been trained in the FSTT approach to Farming System Innovation and empowerment of urban farmer organisations
- About 2000 urban producers have been trained in various subjects related to sustainable urban farming farmer led development of urban farming
- Between 18-30 farmer organisations (1-2 per partner city) have been strengthened (strategic development agenda, improved internal functioning, improved external relations, group savings scheme established, etcetera)
- The farmer based/led FSTT projects have been implemented leading to a 10-15% increase in income and nutrition in the participating households (around 100 households/project)
- At least 1 credit institution in each of the partner cities has started to provide credit to urban farmers with acceptable conditions
- In at least two/third of the RUAF partner cities a Municipal policy and/or a City Strategic Action Plan on urban agriculture has been formalised and is being implemented
- In at least 1 country/region national policies on urban agriculture are being revised or formulated
- At least 100 students and staff of NGO’s, research institutes and governments are trained in FSTT related subjects
- The local actors in the RUAF partner cities as well as 10,000 subscribers to the UA-Magazine (2 issues a year) and over a million visitors/year to the RUAF website receive up to date information on urban agriculture
- The participating organisations are monitoring the FSTT projects to improve their performance regarding development of sustainable urban agriculture and to draw lessons from the experiences gained in the FSTT projects for use in the planning of future activities
FSTT Coordinator: Marielle Dubbeling
PO Box 64, 3830 AB Leusden,
F +31-33 4940791