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Promotion of Urban Agriculture
Dr.Banarsi Lal 2/23/2020 11:30:47 PM
Urban agriculture can be defined as the growing of plants and raising of animals within (intra-urban) and around (peri-urban) cities. Urban agriculture is distinguished from rural agriculture as it is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system. Such linkages include the urban residents as labourers, urban resources such as organic wastes like compost and urban wastewater for irrigation, urban consumers, urban ecology, urban food system, etc. It has been observed by the United Nations that the earth population will increase by 40 per cent and cross nine billion by 2050.It is estimated that 80 per cent of population will reside in cities. It has been observed that many countries produce around 20% of their food in cities. Now the developmental agencies have started to integrate urban agriculture in their policies to solve the urban people problems. Urban poor people can be engaged in urban agriculture. In many cities it has been observed that lower and middle class government officials, school teachers, rich people are involved in urban agriculture. Women constitute an important part of urban farmers as agriculture and related agro- processing activities are efficiently performed by them.
Agriculture is the mainstay of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. About 80 per cent of J&K population depends on agriculture. Over the years, the farmers of this UT have adopted new agricultural technologies but still the UT is having low productivity of almost all the crops. Like other states/UTs of the country, people from rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir are migrating towards the urban areas. Rapid urbanization has increased the urban poverty. Cities like Jammu and Srinagar are not able to generate sufficient income and employment opportunities for the rapidly growing population. The costs of supplying and distributing food from rural areas to the urban areas or to import food for the cities are continuously rising and it is expected that urban food insecurity will increase in future. Food prices are increasing which is an emerging problem for the poor urban consumers. Urban agriculture has immense scope in the UT as it can create employment opportunities for the urban poor people. There is need to create awareness on urban agriculture among the urban and peri-urban people of J&K.Urban agriculture is different than urban jobs that require travelling to the town centre and industrial area. Urban agriculture may take place inside the cities (intra-urban) or in the peri-urban areas. Urban agriculture is possible on the homeland or on land away from the residence, on private land or on public land (parks, conservation areas, along roads, streams and railways), or semi-public land (schoolyards, grounds of schools and hospitals).By urban agriculture food products from different types of crops and animals as well as non-food products like aromatic and medicinal herbs, ornamental plants, tree products etc. or combinations of these can be produced. Production units in urban agriculture in general tend to be more specialized than rural enterprises. Urban agriculture includes agricultural production activities as well as food processing and marketing activities. In urban agriculture, production and marketing tend to be easier in terms of time and space.
Urban agricultural production is mostly done for self-consumption with surpluses being traded. However, the importance of the market-oriented urban agriculture both in volume and economic value should not be underestimated. In urban agriculture mainly fresh products are sold and some part of it is processed for own use, cooked and sold in the streets, or processed and packaged for sale. In urban agriculture, we may encounter individual or family farms, groups or cooperative farms and commercial enterprises at various scales ranging from micro- and small farms to medium-sized and some large-scale enterprises. The technological level of the majority of urban agriculture enterprises in most of the cities like Jammu and Srinagar is still low. However, in some cities of the country like Bangalore and Hyderabad technically advanced and intensive agriculture can be found.
Urbanization is rapidly increasing together with the rapid increase in urban poverty and urban food insecurity. Most of the cities in the state have great difficulties to cope with the development and are unable to create sufficient formal employment opportunities for the poor people. Disposal of urban wastes and waste water and maintaining air and river water quality problems are also increasing. Urban agriculture can provide a complementary strategy to reduce urban poverty and food insecurity and enhance urban environmental management. Urban agriculture plays an important role in enhancing urban food security since the costs of supplying and distributing food to urban areas based on rural production and imports continue to increase and do not satisfy the demand, especially for the poor people. Urban agriculture also contributes to local economic development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion of the urban poor and women in particular, as well as to the greening of the city and the productive reuse of urban wastes. The importance of urban agriculture is being recognized by many international organizations like the UN, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and municipalities.
Urban agriculture contributes to food security and healthy nutrition in urban and peri-urban areas. The World Bank has estimated that approximately 50% of the poor live in urban areas. Urban agriculture may improve both food intake and the quality of the food may improve. In certain countries, 40-60 percent of food consumed by low-income groups is self-produced. It has been observed that the children aged five years or less in low-income farming households were found to be significantly better-off nutritionally (less stunted) than the counterparts in non-farming households and urban farmers generally eat more vegetables than non-urban farmers of the same wealth class. In addition to production for their own consumption needs, large amount of food is produced for other categories of the population. In certain cities urban dwellers are actively involved in agriculture. These urban farmers produce substantial amounts of food for urban consumers. Urban agriculture to a large extent complements rural agriculture and increases the efficiency of the national food system. It provides products that rural agriculture cannot supply easily (e.g. perishable products).Urban agriculture can play an important strategy for poverty eradication and social integration. It can give the positive stimulus especially to the poor urban women. Several municipalities or NGOs have initiated urban agriculture projects that involve disadvantaged groups such as orphans, disabled people, women, immigrants without jobs, or elderly people, with the aim to integrate them more strongly into the urban network and to provide them with a decent livelihood. The participants in the project may feel enriched by working constructively, building their community, working together and in addition producing food and other products for consumption and for sale. Urban agriculture may be undertaken for the physical or psychological relaxation. Also, urban and peri-urban farms may take on an important role in providing recreational opportunities for citizens or having educational functions such as bringing youth in contact with animals, teaching about ecology, etc. Urban agriculture can improve the urban ecological system and can play an important role in the urban environmental management system. Now-a-days cities produce more and more wastewater and organic wastes. For most of the cities the disposal of wastes has become a serious problem. Urban agriculture can help to solve such problems by turning urban wastes into a productive resource. In addition, compost-making initiatives create employment and provide income for the urban poor. The use of freshwater has the additional advantage for urban poor farmer because it contains lot of nutrients.
Technologies such as hydroponics or organoponics, drip irrigation, zero tillage etc. substantially reduce water needs and health risks and are very interesting for the urban environment. Urban agriculture can positively impact upon the greening and cleaning of the cities. Degraded open spaces and vacant land are often used as informal waste dumpsites and are a source of crime and health problems. When such zones are turned into productive green spaces not only an unhealthy situation is cleared but also the people can actively enjoy the green area. Such activities may also enhance community self-esteem in the neighbourhood .Urban agriculture and urban forestry can contribute to disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change by reducing runoff, reducing urban temperatures, reducing dust and CO2, while growing fresh food close to consumers reduces energy spent in transportation, cooling, processing and packaging.

The writer is: Asstt. Professor, KVK Reasi (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu).
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