Agriculture is the mainstay of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. About 80 per cent of J and K population depends on agriculture. The total geographical area of this State is 2, 22, 236 sq. km and the population is 1, 25, 48,926 (Census 2011). Over the years, the farmers of the state have adopted new agricultural technologies but still the state is having low productivity of almost all the crops.
Like other states of the country, people from rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir are migrating towards the urban areas. Rapid urbanisation 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 state as it can create employment opportunities for the urban poor people.
Keeping the scope of urban agriculture in view Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu (SKUAST-Jammu) is creating awareness on urban agriculture among the urban and peri-urban people of the province.
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 per cent 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 are mainly 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.
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 specialised 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 recognised by many international organisations like the UN, Food and Agriculture Organisation (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 per cent 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 per cent 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).
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper