Rise of the Urban Farmer

Addis Abeba is heralded as the capital of Africa and is a very important diplomatic centre. While building its metropolitan image, however, the city is also working on making its mark through agriculture as well.

This renewed policy shift is reflective of growing global trends in the management of urban economies. According to a 2013 World Bank study, different countries undertake urban agriculture in different ways and for different reasons. In Sierra Leone, similar to the Ethiopian experience, the purpose is for food production and supply, as well as livelihood improvement; South Africa has found ways of improving biodiversity management through urban agriculture; Australia and Morocco use it to meet predicted global climate change challenges and for climate optimised development, respectively, and the Philippines use it for city beautification.

In Seoul, South Korea, there were 66 urban farmers in 2010 and 2,056 in 2013. They became a significant supplier of agricultural products, such as milk, vegetables and meat, to the denizens of other Korean cities.

The new Addis Abeba policy incorporates much of the 2007 urban farming recommendation by the United Nations Organisation for Food and Agriculture (FAO) and the World Bank (WB).

Urban agriculture is an industry that can be undertaken in gardens, on rooftops and on empty public land, in cellars or on specially assigned plots by urban residents from various backgrounds for economic gain.

A variety of crops are grown across Addis Abeba, either for home consumption, for sale or both. Additionally, different types of livestock found in Addis Abeba are managed by urban farmers across the city.

According to a 2012 research study, Livelihood Dependence on Urban Agriculture in Addis Abeba, by Tewodros Firdissa, over 75pc of urban crop producers in Addis Abeba cultivate mostly vegetables. All the vegetable producers reported that they cultivate vegetables primarily as a livelihood activity, in addition to supplementing their household food consumption.

Seventy-five percent of all urban livestock in the Addis Abeba urban agro-economy are cows; with 50pc of households in the Akaki-Kaliti District also owning oxen in addition to cows.  Twenty to 30pc of polled households rear chicken and sheep, mainly for home consumption, reveals the same study.

The Addis Abeba City Administration Bureau of Trade and Industry Development has designed a strategic plan, termed Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Policy and Strategy for Addis Abeba. This was published in May, 2013.

Until then, there was no strategic plan for urban agriculture and there were many problems in the sector, as explained by Alamayehu Taye – core work process head at the Addis Abeba City Urban Agriculture Bureau.

“The need for the design of the strategic plan were the obstacles of providing land to the farmers, gaps in providing veterinary support, a scarcity of water and lack of opportunities for female farmers in the industry,” said Alemayehu.

According to Alemayehu, the new strategic plan attempts to address the previous problems. Now, the bureau is working effectively to provide sufficient veterinary support to the farmers, and they can also access enough water. He did mention, however, that there is still the challenge of access to land for farmers, because there is a scarcity in the city.

Under urban agriculture, the bureau listed 14 urban agricultural activities for public support, such as poultry farming, dairy farming, beekeeping, leather and hide development, manufacturing animal feed, vegetable farming and other related on-farm activities.

The bureau has prioritised vegetable farming, poultry farming, dairy farming and beekeeping, believing that they yielded more for less input cost.

Farmers who wish to work in these areas can expect training from the bureau, as well as the facilitation of loans from the Addis Credit & Savings Institution S.C. (ADCSI) and the Oromia Credit & Savings S.C. (OCSSCO). This is in addition to the provision of enhanced seeds and breeds, as well as the facilitation of land access with the Addis Abeba Land Bank & Transfer Office, according to Alemayehu.

Yeshi Ageze, 26, was working at ethio telecom and Ethiopian Airlines for four years prior to joining a poultry farm co-operative, called Ermias, Minyahele & Friends Poultry Farming Joint Partnership, with nine other members, in December, 2012. The partnership received 120sqm of land in Woreda 11 of the Akaki-Kaliti District. They deposited an initial capital of 20,000 Br, after which they were able to borrow 80,000 Br.

“After the Bureau trained us, we started the work by buying 1,300 chickens from the bureau,” Yeshi said.

The members, however, all picked by the Bureau, came from two different woredas, which Yeshi says was the reason that four would later drop out, and even the remaining five are not equally participating in the work.

The partnership is also unable to find a market on its own, relying on the bureau to create market linkages, which it is not yet doing. All the chicken they have are now ready for the market.

“We cannot find buyers for our chickens, and we are purchasing additional chicken feed at a loss,” Yeshi says, complaining that a market has not been provided to them.

The bureau wants them to use the training they have received to find markets on their own.

“There is high demand for agricultural products, but most farmers do not have the courage to go out and find buyers,” said Alemyehu. “They expect us to do that for them.”

On Thursday May 1, 2014, Dello Dadesso was digging and watering her vegetable farm, which is found in the Kirkos District, around Gotera, next to St. Yared Church.

Dello is a 35-year-old single mother who uses her vegetable produce to provide for her five children. She grows salad, chilli, and both local and introduced cabbage on a 150sqm plot of land, which she got from the city administration in 2006.

Her current vegetable farm was previously part of a garbage dump, which she and 11 other people cleaned up for farming. The city administration not only allowed them to continue with the farming, but also provided them with a five-day training programme and special hybrid seeds free of charge.

The small river nearby provides water for the farm, but the work is hardly supported by any tools.

Dello sells her produce either at the farm point or at the local open market, in addition to using it for home consumption. She could sell up to 200 Br’s worth of vegetables every week.

Another urban farmer, who lives around the Seba Dereja area, off Adwa Street, on the road from Arat Kilo to Piazza, Simeneh Chane, started out with a 35,000 Br cow. Now, he also fattens five sheep.

“It is difficult to work in the neighbourhood, because my neighbours always complain that I am polluting the environment with the noxious fumes of animal waste,” complains Simeneh.

He sells seven litres a day at 16 Br a litre, using whatever is left for home consumption.

“My children always drink milk every morning before they go to school and my wife also uses milk for her coffee,” said Simeneh.

Initially, Simeneh bought his sheep for 800-1,000 Br and is expecting to sell them for 1,800-2,000 Br, after fattening them up for three to four months.

“Veterinary doctors from the bureau come and visit whenever I require their services,” he said.

He would love to get land where he will not be bothered by neighbours, but the bureau would rather train them on how to use available land due to its scarcity, says Alemayehu.

“We are asking some institutions, such as factories and hospitals, those occupying extra empty land, to allow us to use it for concessions to urban farmers,” he added.

Addis Abeba has 116 woredas and the city would like to have 100 urban farmers in each of them by the end of this fiscal year, on July 7.

From the 116 woredas of Addis Abeba, the bureau is working to encourage potential farmers in poultry, vegetables, beekeeping and dairy farming. The Bureau hopes to involve at least 100 people in each woreda in these activities, and increase the number of urban farmers to 11,600 by the end of this year.


Published on May 11, 2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 731]



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