Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. D. NamgyalThe food production across the globe by and large is from rural settlements. Their urban counterparts depend on these supplies from the villages. The percentage of the urban population growing their own food is miniscule. With the trend of migration from rural to urban settlements going unabated and reports revealing half of the Indian population expected to live in cities by 2050 the pressure for ensuring food security of the urban dwellers will be on the rise and a challenge to meet. With the threats like climate change and many others looming large on the agriculture sector, the problems regarding food security is bound to increase manifold in the days to come. Another fact is that the food and nutritional security of urban dwellers is compromised by many factors including non-availability of food, price fluctuations and poverty. The urban areas are also characterized by considerable undernourishment and deficiency of calorie intake. In the recent years urban agriculture has emerged as one of the solutions for ensuring food and nutritional security that has been threatened also due to migration ad quiet a good number of farmers leaving this profession. Urban agriculture or Peri-urban agriculture can not only provide nutritional security but also help find sustainable solutions to the growing challenge of wastewater and solid waste management in addition to helping alleviate poverty. Many cities around the world have adopted policies and programmes that are pro urban In India too, some efforts are being made. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has identified urban and peri-urban agriculture as a farming system that can contribute to domestic food & nutritional security and jobs, and improving urban ecology and sanitation, thereby achieving poverty alleviation, food security and sustainable urban development. The FAO defines urban and peri-urban agriculture as an industry located within (intra-urban) or on the fringe (peri urban) of a town, a city or a metropolis, which grows and raises, processes and distributes a diversity of agriculture products, using largely human, land and water resources, products and services found in and around that urban area. As the country is projected to add 400 million people to its urban population by 2050, it is very important for the country to address this issue earnestly and urban agriculture is which can be exploited to address this crucial issue. The food and nutritional insecurity is often considered a rural phenomenon. But it is not the thing now. About 65.5 million people live in urban slums and sprawls which lead to intra generational nutritional inequality. The report on the state of food security in urban India by the M. S. Swaminathan research foundation has already highlighted that the situation in urban areas is often overlooked during discussions on food and nutrition security. There is considerable food and nutritional insecurity in the urban areas the situation being worse in smaller towns. Especially vulnerable are women and children; about 50% of the women are anemic and undernourished resulting in severe energy deficiency is rampant among women. Also peoples living in urban areas have much less control over the supply and quality of the food they consume as compared to the rural population. The food prices, especially those of vegetables, fruits and pulses, which heavily influence the quantum of their consumption, are subjected to many vagaries. This undernourishment and urban poverty can be reduced and food and nutritional security can be improved through urban and peri-urban agriculture, especially gardening of fruits, flowers and vegetables. As peoples are now increasingly becoming health conscious, there is a growing market for such products in cities particularly for organic produce with increasing buying purchasing power. Urban agriculture can be practiced on a variety of sites in homes, malls, government buildings, schools and other institutions. Food can be produced in balconies, dead areas like terraces which are used for keeping water tanks, roof tops, open areas in cities, vacant plots, ponds, parks community structures, road side, railway lines and institutional areas like schools, colleges, hospitals, universities and many more where it can be managed by community institutions. To promote urban agriculture, the Government of Kerala has started a programme ‘Nagarathia oru Nattinpuram’ which means village in the city. Under this the government provides subsidy based cash incentives to the urban residents to start vermi compost units.Many cities in India are already witnessing their residents practicing urban agriculture. In many cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai it is being undertaken under the leadership of government, private agencies or even individuals. It is here worthwhile to mention the success story of Cuba. After the Cuban communist party came to power in 1960 and till 1989, Cuba was importing most of its food, devoting most of its agricultural land to the cultivation of sugarcane. Soviet Union paid premium price for the sugar imported from Cuba in the form of food, petroleum, machinery and other goods supplied to Cuba in return. But the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 led to severe food shortages in Cuba and with no access to food, petroleum, machinery and fertilizers, the country had to quickly transform itself from an import dependant nation to a food self- sufficient nation. The main reason for the success of the world’s first coordinated urban agricultural programme other than the fact that it was a necessity at that time was the complete support provided by the government with favorable policies and institutions playing a pivotal role in spearheading the urban agricultural revolution. President Fidel Castro proclaimed that no piece of land should be left uncultivated. Even on the lawn of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), crops were planted. The than newly formed Urban Agriculture Department also worked with the Poder Popular or Legislative Council to change city laws to suit urban agriculture.
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