East African countries are rapidly urbanizing as a result of growing populations and rural to urban migration for employment, services, and more. With global increases in transportation food resources and items, food prices have increased and consequently urban food security decreases. This effect is even more severe in lower income urban and peri-urban communities. However, informed urban planning policy, by-laws, and guidelines can provide an opportunity to improve food systems directly by creating opportunities for innovative interventions and technologies to be implemented. The research relating to policy and food systems, particularly in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, will demonstrate the importance of policy, systems mapping and new technologies in response to global climate change, urban and peri-urban land pressures, and the increased vulnerability of children and youth within these very communities. Currently, 800 million people around the world conduct some form of urban farming; this practice promotes sustainable food production and simultaneously increases household incomes for the individuals and families.

In this project the objectives are to conduct research and formulate best practice policy food system frameworks that will provide a local perspective on a global food security crisis and be implemented in any area of the world. By focusing on the most at-risk informal settlement communities with higher poverty, density, and population levels, the research results will easily transfer to urban centres and peri-urban communities. The research based best practices and policy frameworks can then be applied to growing communities, potentially reducing a food crisis within these centres in the future. Furthermore, the increasing complexity of food systems in all peri-urban regions makes the activities of this project of value within any development context as research indicates urban agriculture meets a variety of functions — such as food security — in both southern and northern countries.

Activities will include interns, scholars, and researchers working together in a multi-disciplinary and multi-national context. The multi-disciplinary activities, such as GIS mapping, analysis, qualitative research, and community-based consultations and workshops will increase the sustainability of both the programme and the educational outcomes for future implementation. The interns, by working with community members, increase knowledge transfer and the ability for community members to actively participate and gain experience in related follow-on projects. The interns will be the primary agents behind formulating and analyzing research and best practice results that will assist future projects in developing and implementing urban agricultural policy and guidelines, leading to greater success and sustainability for all participants. Increasing the opportunity for interns (Component 2), scholars (Component 3), and researchers (affiliated with partner organizations) to gain knowledge through hands-on experiential learning leads to greater success in evaluation, follow-up to the initial project, and the likelihood for youth to continue working in their designated fields (GIS, Urban Planning, Agriculture, etc.). All of this leads to the promotion of sustainable food production and resourcing.

Scholars and interns will carry out research investigations and demonstration projects to promote best practices of urban agriculture and contribute to a broader goal of mitigation of global climate change impacts and resultant food shortages. The project will create opportunities for student interns and scholars to work with community members, NGO’s, community-based organizations and governments in identifying key policies and planning guidelines that will increase the opportunity for urban agricultural development and provide a toolkit which community members can use in creating urban agricultural interventions through:

  • Development of a library of potential land and its suitability for agriculture
  • Creation of an educational curriculum for school children
  • Development of urban agriculture manuals for new farmers
  • Conference presentations and co-authored papers
  • Creation of policy, advocacy and awareness tools for the purpose of motivating the political process
  • Informing the general public of the need for sustainable urban food systems.

The partnership among UFV (Agriburban Research Centre and Global Development Institute), Aga Khan University (East African Institute), and Ardhi Regional University (Institute of Human Settlement Studies) will enable a multi-disciplinary research approach to urban agriculture that includes students, scholars, and experts in GIS (Geographical Information Systems), mapping, urban and community planning, agricultural studies, climate/climate change as well as experts who have experience in local geography, weather, botany, soils studies, industrial design technology and informal settlement upgrading/development. Expertise from all partners will ensure the successful development of strategies aimed towards urban planning policy and capacity building at both the local and international levels to enable a strong foundation from which further research, intervention development/implementation and knowledge-sharing can occur.

By building a consortium between Canadian and international universities, and enabling collaboration among student interns, researchers, analysts and scholars, the project supports internationalization of education and promotes multi-disciplinary and multi-national collaboration in developing a global policy framework that addresses vital global issues. Much of the focus of the project will be on urban slums, informal settlements, and poorer communities within the urban centres. These focus areas will provide a basis from which further analysis can be obtained regarding the potential for urban agriculture to create sustainable communities and alleviate poverty.