Harare — Harare City Council must have a clear-cut policy on urban agriculture that takes into consideration the need to conserve the environment and the contribution of urban farming towards household food security.
Haphazard urban farming has negatively impacted on the environment and, in some instances, affected protected conservancies, forests and wetlands.
While environment protection must be given priority, it is indisputable that urban agriculture remains one of the major means of securing household food security among the urban populace.
Agrarian reform promotes urban agriculture as a way of empowering the urban population and reducing poverty but without a policy/framework to regulate the activities, land degradation would be the downfall of urban agriculture.
People continue cultivating in ecologically sensitive areas such as hill slopes and although pressure for land has increased, council has to come up with ideas on how best to ease the pressure.
The land as a resource is available, but the challenge is to come up with delivery systems that are sensitive to the huge numbers that require the land.
Urban farming is often among the most efficient and intensive forms of agriculture everywhere. It can be a vital source of food even for middle-income households and yet urban agriculture often exists on illegal land.
It gets by with little or no financial help, and farmers are at constant risk of being evicted or having their crops slashed.
The practice of urban agriculture is not illegal. It only becomes illegal when it is not authorised as well as when it is carried along stream banks and protected wetlands.
This shows the absence of laws and policies that are specifically dedicated to regulating and monitoring urban agricultural activities.
An urban agriculture policy should incorporate an environmental impact assessment on how best urban agriculture can improve livelihoods.
Urban agriculture, as part of a poverty reduction strategy, needs to be regulated and areas where it should take place should be well defined according to boundaries. There have been cases where the local authority has clashed with residents over urban agriculture, especially where it concerns maize growing.
Some residents have had their maize crop slashed because it was grown on unauthorised land. We should recognise the role urban farming plays in providing food to families and, as such, it should be promoted and not discouraged for as long as it is conducted in a manner that does not impact negatively on the environment.
It is heartening to note that even Harare Metropolitan Resident Minister Cde David Karimanzira has been quoted several times commenting on the benefits residents derive from urban farming.
What only needs to be done is to ensure it takes place on clearly designated land that does not promote degradation.