For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population resides in the urban areas, and is expected to soar to about 9 billion people by 2050. This, needless to say, has profound implications for global trends in poverty, food security and nutrition and for global and local food systems. Increasing food self-reliance is key to easing the global burden of feeding an exponentially-growing urban population which puts a strain on global urban food systems. Poverty is rapidly shifting its location from rural to urban areas and food insecurity and malnutrition in all its varied forms are becoming highly prevalent among urban dwellers.
Perhaps nothing casts a harsher light on our global social inequities than the increasing number of people who go hungry every day-about 1/9th of the world’s population. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), more people go hungry in the world today than at any time since 1970. About 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine people, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in the period between 2014 and 2016. Almost all the 795 million that go hungry everyday live in developing countries, representing 12.9% of the developing counties’ population. There are 11 million people undernourished in developed countries (FAO 2015). Between 2007 and 2050 the world population is projected to increase from 6.7 to 9.2 billion, and most of this growth is projected to occur in urban areas of less developed countries such as Kenya.
Climate change attends our global resolve towards future food security. It has a greater impact on women in developing countries, who essentially rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. They incongruously face higher risks and greater burdens from climate change impacts in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women. Gender differentials invariably alienate women from climate change-mitigation programming, yet they constitute 45% of the region’s agricultural workforce. Our solution as we shall see, reflects the basic tenets of climate action by smallholder women farmers in Kenya, in adopting a rudimentary low-carbon food-production technology towards achieving zero hunger.
Urbanization in itself is often a positive development, as cities tend to be more productive than rural areas, and therefore a driver of economic growth and development. Yet, exponential urbanization – as it is currently occurring in many developing countries – can outstretch the capacities of cities to absorb and cater for an ever growing number of inhabitants. If unabated, urbanization may lead to the development of slums and pose a considerable threat to all dimensions of food security, because the majority of urban dwellers are net food buyers and spend a large part of their disposable income on food. In particular, the 2007/2008 global food crisis demonstrated the vulnerability of the urban poor and the strong link between food and national security. When prices for staple food crops – like wheat, maize, and rice – started to rise at the end of 2007 and reached decade highs in early 2008, the urban poor were hit the hardest. This led to food-related riots and conflicts.
In Africa, the youthful population is exponentially growing. In 2015, it is estimated that close to 226 million youth aged 15-24 lived in Africa, accounting for 19% of the global youth population. By 2030, it is projected that the number of youth in Africa will have increased by 42%, and is expected to maintain that growth trajectory throughout the remainder of the 21st century; to more than twice the current levels, by 2055. In Kenya, our population is majorly youthful and unemployed. According to a national census carried out in 2009, 75% of the Kenyan population is youthful and majorly unemployed. The question then begs, how can we create employment for our youth while at the same time addressing national, trans-national and global food security?
The New Nutritional Landscape – Our Solution
As we march towards our global future, food access in urban areas should not be overlooked. Our solution to reducing global hunger is anchored on the desire to enhance, firstly, access to adequate, and secondly, to safe food, and that is the reason why we as a solution to all these, urban organic farming. Urban populations need to be assured of access to not only adequate food, but that which is produced under hygienic and agronomically-sound conditions.
The only way out to feeding a swelling global urban population with a dwindling urban agricultural space is by leveraging the nexus between a surging urban population and a dwindling farm space in urban centers. Homegrown, our solution, is an urban-farming innovation that optimizes our constricted urban spaces in food-production, through the setting up of miniaturized gardens hewn from plastic waste, in our home balconies and schools to enhance household, school and community-feeding programmes in Kenya respectively. We are eradicating global hunger through building a resilient urban out-grower community consisting of households, schools and the wider community.
Homegrown thereby affords urban communities in low-resource settings, (urban) farming solutions to increase sustainable food access, manage waste and create employment opportunities for the urban-poor-who are majorly women and youth. It is just one of the many community development initiatives in Kenya, working to improve the community’s quality of life by integrating urban gardening with employment and wealth-creation. Urban-farming in homes and schools is underutilized. There are considerably large spaces in our schools, which communities could harness in community-gardening approaches to urban farming. That is one way of eliminating absenteeism through incentivizing starving children to attend schools through inclusion of meals into the daily school programme.
Among the benefits that accrue to urban agricultural households from this solution, are: (1) Increased food availability and access of the urban poor to healthy, nutritious and safe foods and stimulated demand for healthy diets; (2) Promotion of urban agriculture for safe, affordable and nutritious locally-propagated foods; (3) Creation of income-generating opportunities for urban dwellers, including women and youth (4) Easing of trade-offs for working women; and (5) Improved access of poor urban dwellers to high-quality sanitation.