An estimated 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will face severe hunger and malnutrition if urban areas are not engaged in peri-urban agriculture to improve food security in the region. And the picture is not different for the rest of Africa’s cities with an already burgeoning population.

This is the outcome of the report in the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) publication, Growing Greener Cities In Africa released at the weekend.

The report says urban population in Africa is growing faster than any other region and this comes with the challenge of feeding millions of dwellers, largely made up of actively growing youths.

The report warns that cities must pay attention to peri-urban agriculture.

Released in advance of the sixth session of the World Urban Forum in Naples, (1-7 September) in Italy, it says African policymakers should act with urgency to steer the unhealthy and unsustainable urbanisation to a food-secure path.

Modibo Traoré, the Organisation’s Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection, said,  “African policymakers need to act now to steer urbanisation from its current, unsustainable path towards healthy, ‘greener’ cities that ensure food and nutrition security, decent work and income, and a clean environment for all their citizens.”

As more rural dwellers are being drawn to the cities in their millions with sustenance on less than $2 a day, emphasis on peri-urban horticulture in homes, schools, community and market gardens is urgent.

According to the publication, “by the end of the current decade, 24 of the world’s 30 fastest growing cities will be African.” It added that surveys show that between 2010 and 2030, the urban population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double, from about 300 to 600 million.

Though most of the gardens grow fruits and vegetables for the market, the FAO report indicts policymakers for not giving the needed attention and support to this sub-sector.

It goes further urging ‘national governments and city administrations to work together with growers, processors, suppliers, vendors and others to give market gardens and urban and peri-urban agriculture the political, logistical and educational support necessary for sustainable development.’

The FAO publication recommends that policymakers zone and protect land and water for market gardens while encouraging growers to adopt the organisation’s farming model, Save and Grow.

FAO’s Save and Grow seeks to boost yields while conserving and enhancing natural resources. It includes applying the right amount of appropriate, external inputs such as pesticides, fertilisers and seeds at the right time.

The report observes that urban agriculture is becoming unsustainable in terms of maximising returns, which has plunged gardeners to increased use of pesticides and polluted water.

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