Those with agricultural roots, who move into cities, show the way to combat hunger (Google / PRI)

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Urban farming an emerging trend as Kenya lives on edge of climate change

Living on Earth

In Kenya, vertical farming and small, urban plots are becoming an important part of keeping poor Kenyans from starving as they move out of the countryside and into the cities, because of climate change.

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is a bustling business city, but it’s also on the bleeding edge of climate change.

Rainfall disruptions and drought have led to a mass migration from rural areas of the country to the city. About 60 percent of the population now live in slums.

Hell on Earth is how some people, like journalist Jocelyn Zuckerman, describe it. But others see an opportunity. An opportunity for a form of urban agriculture called vertical farming.

“Most of the buildings are made of just sort of scraps of cardboard or mud – corrugated tin roofs on top of each other … and laundry hanging all over open sewage that you have to step over and around,” Zuckerman said after visiting a shantytown named Kibera. “But there’s also lots of little stores and barbershops and butchers and bakeries.”

A recent study found that 20 percent of people in Kibera said they’d gone a day and night without food in the last couple of months.

“Poor people around the world – especially in cities where they don’t have access to land to grow their own food – generally spend from 75 to 80 percent of their incomes just on food,” she said.

And more poor people are being forced to cities, especially in Kenya as the Saharan desert expands south because of climate change. Some 15 million people move into cities in sub-Saharan Africa each year, Zuckerman said.

“The dry periods are longer, and the rains are coming at times when they’re not expecting them,” she said. “They’re also tending to be more extreme – a lot of rain – and when a lot of rain falls on the land that’s been dry for so long, it can’t absorb it. So, they’re finding it much more difficult to farm.”

But those who move into cities are finding a way to hook into their agricultural roots.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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