Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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Government must zone out land for urban agric

Government must zone out land for urban agric

http://www.thestandard.co.zw/

February 24, 2013 in Environment

It was the best maize crop I had seen in a while in Zimbabwe and Pioneer 
Seed Company could not help notice a great marketing opportunity, flaunting 
the crop with its company logos.

Report by Chipo Masara

There is just one catch however; this crop is not on some A1 or A2 farm, it 
is on a field in Mbare, along Simon Mazorodze Road.

With an estimated 10% of land in Harare being used for urban agriculture 
(UA), a 2009 report from Agritex showed that urban and peri-urban areas had 
the highest maize yields in the country.

Urban agriculture has however been a contentious issue in Zimbabwe, which 
has seen a number of altercations erupting between residents and their city 
councils.

The case that would sooner come to mind is one that transpired two years ago 
when hundreds of Harare residents invaded Harare City Council (HCC) premises 
in protest against the cutting down of their mostly ripe crops.

The conduct by HCC angered many, who blamed the public institution for being 
an albatross to people’s efforts to earn a decent livelihood.

With the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe being well over 80%, many people are 
struggling to put food on the table. This is more so in urban areas, where 
the cost of living tends to be high.

Agriculture presents many a chance to feed their families, while some have 
claimed to have put their children through school from money obtained after 
selling their products. Children from families that consistently practise UA 
have been observed by health officials to be better nourished than those 
from families that do not.

Besides serving as a food security measure, UA offers environmental 
benefits. The most significant benefit would have to be adding to the urban 
areas’ greenery, in the process reducing pollution as the plants help by 
absorbing dangerous gases like carbon dioxide and others emitted into the 
air we breathe every day.

In that same vein, urban crops serve as a significant climate change 
mitigation measure in the urban setup.

Considering all the above mentioned benefits from UA at both household and 
national level, it has made no sense for many people that the responsible 
authorities would criminalise the activity. That is why it was necessary to 
try and find out Zimbabwe’s current stance on UA.

Banarbas Mawire, the country director for Environment Africa had this to 
say: “We support what we are calling sustainable urban agriculture. It is 
now a reality the world over that cities have to produce food for 
themselves. The problem we have in Zimbabwe is that urban agriculture is not 
regulated and that is why it ends up being done on sensitive areas like 
wetlands. There should be zoning, so that correct things are done on 
appropriate areas.”

Asked on his organisation’s stance on UA, Steady Kangata, publicity officer 
for the Environmental Management Agency said: “Agriculture gives us a form 
of livelihood, regardless of where you are, as long as it is done in 
acceptable areas.

“If agriculture in the urban setting is done at designated points, there is 
nothing wrong with that. What is not acceptable is farming on 
ecologically-sensitive areas like wetlands.”

An official with a local seed company, who preferred anonymity, said it is 
important to zone out land for UA and make sure that the farming does not 
harm the environment.

“I don’t see why people cannot be allowed to plant on open ground. People 
just need to be made aware they cannot plant on wetlands, hills, etc, as 
that will cause environmental degradation,” the official said.

There have been reports of some urban farmers preferring to plant on 
wetlands, where they would not need to worry about weather conditions, as 
the ecologically-sensitive areas have an abundance of water stored in them.

An attempt to get more insight on HCC’s UA policy proved futile as Leslie 
Gwindi, the council spokesperson asked for questions in writing, to which a 
response did not come. Gwindi’s cellphone was continuously unavailable 
thereafter.

Wetlands under threat
However, urban agriculture on vleis has been observed to act as a hindrance 
to the function of wetlands, thereby threatening the cities’ water sources.

There has been growing concern in the country over the abuse of wetlands and 
equally concerted efforts from various stakeholders to put a stop to it. The 
Water Act and The Natural Resources Act ban cultivation in these areas.

But besides those that have decided to carry out their agricultural ventures 
on unsuitable areas like wetlands, there are still many more people that 
plant on open ground.

These are the people many of those that have spoken in support of UA would 
have in mind.

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