Greener Cities: what we can do

Green cities smallA recent article on this website entitled The United States, Niger & Jamaica: Food (In)security & Violence in a Globalised World explored some of the possible links between climate change, food insecurity and violence. Many current articles in the media warn of growing food insecurity as global warming and climate change have devastating effects on crops, livestock and even fisheries. A piece in yesterday’s Guardian states that if extreme weather becomes the norm (which it has) then “starvation awaits”.

Although it is important to recognise that climate change is real and that it is a threat to global security, we should seriously start to focus on what we can do to affect change. Integral to a sustainable security approach is to tackle and address the long-term, root causes of insecurity and conflict. This can easily seem like a daunting task, especially when it concerns “big issues” such as climate change. There are however many things that can be done: some on a policy level, and others on a community level.

A recent report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) draws the attention of policymakers to “urban and peri-urban horticulture, and how it can help to grow greener cities in Africa” because “production of fruit and vegetables in and around urban areas has a clear comparative advantage over rural and other sources in supplying urban residents with fresh, nutritious – but highly perishable – produce all year round. It generates local employment, reduces food transport costs and pollution, creates urban green belts, and recycles urban waste as a productive resource.”

The FAO report says that by the end of this decade, 80% of the world’s fastest growing cities will be African and as more and more people are moving from rural to urban areas in search of a better life, African cities are finding it hard to cope: “more than half of all [African city] residents live in overcrowded slums; up to 200 million survive on less than US$2 a day; poor urban children are as likely to be chronically malnourished as poor rural children”. The report, which draws its conclusions and recommendations from 31 country case studies, suggests that across the Africa continent 40% of residents in cities already have home gardens and “most of these urban farmers are able to meet their nutrition needs and still produce enough to sell in markets”. The commercial production of fruit and vegetables provides livelihoods for thousands of urban Africans and food for millions more. But unfortunately market gardening has grown with little official recognition, regulation or support.

One way to address food insecurity is definitely to help those most affected by price volatility of food become less dependent on the free market. Formally and institutionally encouraging people to grow some of their own food seems like a great idea, not only for African cities, but for people around the world. London has many community gardens to “support and advocate for food producing gardens and their role in individual and urban food security”.

Anna Alissa Hitzemann is a Peacework with Quaker Peace and Social Worker, currently placed with the Sustainable Security Programme at Oxford Research Group.

Image source: Gates Foundation