Across Africa, the third wave of COVID-19 infections are rolling through, with South Africa leading the new surge. This is worrying, particularly for urban dwelling communities, where access to land, water, and other resources needed to sustainably grow food is still a big challenge, writes Esther Ngumbi, Assistant Professor of Entomology at University of Illinois.
Emerging is the urgent need for African country governments and all food security stakeholders to strategize to ensure that the third surge in COVID-19 across Africa does not result in new waves of food insecurity, particularly among the nearly 588 million of Africans living in cities.
Empowering urban dwelling youth, who comprise the majority of the population, and investing in building a thriving and sustainable urban agriculture sector in the African continent is the way forward. Moreover, urban dwelling African youth represent an untapped resource which if leveraged properly has the potential to help to build dynamic and resilient urban food systems. But if neglected as it has been done before, they could become a destabilizing force.
Importantly, African countries should not seek to simply copy existing urban agriculture models but inspire new designs that utilize materials and resources that are available in African countries. Alternatively, African countries can strengthen existing urban growing models and prototypes that are already working. For example, In Uganda, vertically stacked wooden crate units are a local and practical method to farm in urban cities. In Kenya and Ghana, sack gardens made from locally available sisal fibers that are cheap represent a local and practical form of a vertical farm.
There is need for African governments to build databases and creating inventories of the urban agriculture initiatives across the African continent. Other resources including available support materials such as the United Nations framework on urban farming are important. Finally, time is also ripe for Africa to create a center that is dedicated to imagining and supporting all the urban agriculture needs for the continent. If the future is urban, why doesn’t the African continent have a center that is dedicated to exclusively studying, researching, and supporting Urban Agriculture needs?
It is clear, urban agriculture will be relevant now and into the future. African countries need to invest in building strong and resilient urban agriculture and food systems. Time is of the essence.
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