Most of the projected increase in the world’s population over the next several decades is expected to occur in urban centres of low-income regions. Such urbanisation trends go hand in hand with the urbanisation of poverty and increasing urban food insecurity. Urban agriculture contributes to enhanced food security and improved nutrition of the urban poor and other vulnerable groups.
Urban agriculture (intra- and peri- urban) may improve both food intake and the nutritional quality of the food. Locally produced food is fresher, more nutritious and diverse than food products bought in supermarkets or in fast food chains. This is of crucial importance for young children, the elderly or sick household members (e.g. HIV/AIDS and TB patients) and pregnant and lactating women.
Urban agriculture also can play a role in the social inclusion of marginalised groups (the aged without a pension, unemployed youth, persons with disabilities, those afflicted by HIV-AIDS, refugees, female-headed households etc.) by providing them an opportunity to feed their families and raise an income, while enhancing self-management and entrepreneurial capacities.
The more subsistence-oriented and semi-commercial types of urban agriculture may have smaller economic significance, but the number of households involved is often high. Poor households involved in urban agriculture benefit economically from their production activities by saving on food expenditure or sales of surplus crop and livestock production, and in addition may benefit from production and sales of processed products or agricultural inputs.
A majority of the world’s urban producers are women (around 65 percent). Urban agriculture may provide some advantages over other jobs and income earning opportunities for women in lower income groups, like the low capital needed to start farming, the possibility to combine this activity with attending children, less travelling (and related costs in money and time) to the city centre or better off neighbourhoods for an (often informal e.g. housekeeping) job.
Many displaced people (in refugee camps and those who found a place to stay in and around cities) engage in agriculture for subsistence and market production. More and more local and national authorities, as well as relief agencies, are intentionally supporting this as part of their rehabilitation and development strategies.
RUAF promotes urban agriculture for food security and pro-poor marketing (using part of produce for own consumption, savings and possible sale of surplus produce). We do so by organising training courses and study visits for municipal staff, NGOs and CBOs (see for example the reports on the Study visit and staff training on urban agriculture and HIV-AIDS (Cape Town, South Africa), the Study visit and training on strengthening urban producer groups (the Netherlands); the workshop on gender issues in urban agriculture (Accra, Ghana) and the workshops with the regional NGO network DIOBASS (Kivu, Uganda).
RUAF also supports the formulation, implementation and monitoring of projects on home-, school- and community- gardening, “low space no space” production in slum areas and support to consumer food groups (see amongst others the projects mentioned below).
RUAF Foundation has a specific focus on post-conflict areas (see for example the food security projects implemented in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gaza with Coopi, Welt Hunger Hilfe and Care, and Oxfam respectively). Other examples are the over 40 small projects implemented with producer groups in the context of the Cities Farming for the Future Programme and the low space agriculture project in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
RUAF furthermore assists in situation analysis (e.g. community mapping of food shortages, food selling points, vacant open spaces, ongoing food related community initiatives and governmental or NGO- support programmes), assessment of alternative intervention strategies, project design, organisation of the disadvantaged groups in functional groups (food buying cooperatives, home or community gardening groups, urban producer organisations) and their linkages with support providing organisations. For example, situation analysis and design/implementation/monitoring of small projects with groups of urban poor /women was supported in 20 cities as part of the Cities Farming for the Future Programme. In such analysis, design, implementation and monitoring, RUAF always incorporates proper attention to gender issues (see also the research project Designing guidelines for mainstreaming gender in urban agriculture projects and the book Women Feeding Cities that was produced by the RUAF Foundation in cooperation with the CGIAR-Urban Harvest programme.
In order to further enhance the recognition and visibility of urban agriculture and its contributions to food security and social inclusion among bilateral and multinational donors, RUAF also implements research and produces reports, facts sheets, policy narratives and briefs. Examples include the Study on the impacts of rising food prices on the food security of the urban poor (in 5 cities/regions for IDRC and UN Habitat), Assistance to FAO for the Technical Consultation on Food, Agriculture and Cities and the Scoping paper on urban agriculture for UNEP and the Assistance to China-Europe on urban agriculture in face of the food crisis.