Urban Farming: From Canada’s West to Africa’s East

The promotion and integration of agriculture into urban settings is not just a fad, it is an essential piece to building our cities sustainably. Urban agriculture is a globally relevant phenomenon, and as a development strategy it has the potential to intersect with a plurality of social, economic, and environmental issues. Urban farming closes the gap between people and food, empowering conscious actors within urban food systems instead of having food framed as a commodity. There is great potential for Nairobi to become a global icon in food system sustainability. With the Nairobi County Government’s recent commitment to incorporating urban agriculture into land use planning, farming within the city has the potential to become an economically viable option for citizens to pursue. It is important to contextualize urban agriculture practices in Nairobi within the global movement, showing the scales at which Nairobi farmers are currently operating while providing insight and optimism for growth in the future. Kiroko Enterprises exemplifies how urban farming can change perceptions around agriculture within cities and contribute to socially, economically, and environmentally responsible development.

Kiroko Enterprises is an urban farm situated in the Makadara constituency of Nairobi. The Director, Francis Wachira, and his family run a variety of ‘for profit’ farming operations, all of which are organic and sustainable. Much of the farm consists of horticulture, with plants of all varieties thriving within the urban setting of Makadara. They engage in rabbit, guinea pig, and chicken farming as well. However, Francis’ most endeared enterprise is his dairy goat operation, which takes up very little space comparative to the farming of dairy cows. Dairy goats produce a more nutritious, high quality milk product as well, and Francis sells this product locally to major outlets such as a school and a yoghurt production company, as well as to neighbours within his community. This dairy goat enterprise is not only increasing food security within his community, but it is also developing a uniquely local food culture that offers a wealth of economic and environmental benefits. Much like Kiroko Enterprises, urban farms in Nairobi are in their beginning stages of development, and to understand the potential scale and role they can play within this city, we can look to other operations across the globe.

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Francis uses spoiling produce from local markets and the farm animals’ solid waste to keep the soil on his urban farm fertile.

The Vancouver based Sole Food Farms has 4 locations spread throughout the city, all of which are in densely populated areas. Their mission is simple: to empower individuals with limited resources by providing jobs, agricultural training, and inclusion in a supportive community of farmers and food lovers. They are attempting to develop a food culture within the city where small farms thrive in every neighborhood and where nutritious food is accessible to all people, regardless of socio-economic status. While Kiroko Enterprises has not yet grown to the scale of urban farms such as Sole Food Farms, there is great potential for this to occur. Kiroko Enterprises constitutes a foundation from which Nairobi’s food system can begin to develop sustainably.

Cities like Nairobi must lead the way in providing solutions to the urban food crisis. Under the constitution, the powers and functions of the County Government include Agriculture; crop, animal husbandry and fisheries. Counties therefore have the powers to design food policy that integrates food and nutrition with social, economic, health, safety, and environmental goals. The new Nairobi City County Urban Agriculture Promotion and Regulation Bill, which was passed in 2015, is a promising legal framework that can help ensure food production within or on the fringe of cities is both fruitful and enduring. Together, with initiatives on energy efficiency, high resource productivity, and policies for containing sprawl, urban agriculture has an important contribution to make towards shaping a Nairobi of the future.

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