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Increase in urban farming amid COVID-19 and fragile food supply chains

More urban dwellers who usually rely on food that is sourced from farms away from the city are turning to urban farming now that COVID-19 has fractured and exposed how fragile the existing food supply chains are. Google trends reports show that searches for “gardens” are up and enterprises that sell plants and seeds report a spike in the number of customers. Across America, people are planting more vegetables. 

Around the world, other countries have seen a sharp increase in urban farming, from Jakarta, to Singapore to Australia. This is a move in the right direction and the reinvigorating of the urban farming movement should be supported and nurtured. 

What does urban farming look like?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Organization, urban agriculture can take many forms, from roof-top gardens to farming on abandoned buildings and parking lots to backyard and balcony gardening. In many African countries, it often entails sack and stack farming and traditional gardening in backyards and in some places like South Africa, it also includes roof top gardens and small farm gardens. There are many benefits to urban farming including condensing the mileage of food from the farm to the market to improving personal health, ecosystems and food insecurity while promoting sustainable livelihoods. Most importantly, during the pandemic, urban farming has helped families to cope with food insecurities.   

The urban farming movement is especially welcome in Africa, a continent that is rapidly urbanizing, with cities that are crowded and costly. At 3.5 percent per year, Africa’s urban growth rate is the highest in the world, and that number is expected to keep increasing. Supporting urban farming across Africa would allow the continent to be ready for any future pandemics. Moreover, at the moment, urban cities in Africa rely on rural areas to meet their food demands, because most of the food consumed is bought in markets and from vendors who source their food directly from farmers that are based in rural areas. 

Read more at Thomson Reuters Foundation News (Esther Ngumbi)

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