The Reporter- June 28, 2000
by Michael Tadesse
"If 50 percent of the flora in our cities and towns was edible, we wouldn't be prone to series food shortage that has been afflicting our country for decades." This was a view expressed at a discussion on Urban Agriculture conducted at the Addis
Ababa Museum as part of the ongoing City Forum-Exhibition program. It is true that Ethiopia's economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, and the government, being aware of this, is strongly advocating rural development through
the theme of 'Agriculture based industrial development'. It seems that this exclusive policy orientation towars rural areas has ruled out the contribution of Urban Agriculture to the overall food production which ensures self-sufficiency of
Most Ethiopian cities and towns are characterized by rural culture, landscape setting and an urban economy dominated by agricultural products. This Urban-rural mix, called 'Urban Ruralism' by some professionals, is, one can say, a peculiar feature of Addis Ababa - which, if properly manipulated, is an asset worth preserving.
According to some studies on Urban Agriculture, out of the 54,000hectare surface area of Addis, 18,174 hectare (33.6%) is agricultural land possessed by 25 farmers' associations in the periphery of the city. The larger proportion of this is farmland covering 12,202 hectares, followed by grazing land (2,943 hectares) and other horticultural strips along streams (3,025 hectares).
It is estimated that 30percent of the crop demand and over 50percent of the dairy products supply of the city is met by farming activities within the metropolitan areas of Addis. Urban Agriculture, apart from subsidizing the overall food production, has several positive implications and social and environmental roles to play in the urban ecology.
First of all, it is the most utilitarian way of introducing a natural environment into the urban landscape. At a time when reserving land for green belts around cities is becoming unaffordable, Urban Agriculture is the next best choice. It is also an effective buffer zone between urban and rural areas.
Second, Urban Agriculture is one of the most practical tools for combating unemployment in cities. The urban poor, if given a chance to engage themselves in horticulture production within the metropolitan areas, can benefit from easy access
to the market, and the urban dwellers get fresh vegetables at cheaper prices since transportation and storage fees are minimized. This, however, requires convincing the unemployed youth of the city to get rid of the erroneous attitude that farming
is a 'backward job'. Currently, it is estimated that around 40,000 inhabitants are engaged in agricultural activities, which is not a big figure for a green city like Addis. Metropolitan farmers also have the opportunity to engage themselves in urban service business on non-farming days.
Third, Urban Agriculture plays a substantial role in maintaining an urban ecological balance by reducing soil erosion and by improving the biological equilibrium in metropolitan areas.
Lastly, it assists in waste disposal by biologically decomposing solid waste in a short period of time and re-using it as a natural fertilizer. This can be more effective with a good understanding of scientific application methods. In this regard, the prospect
of re-cycling the sludge by-product at the Kaliti sewerage treatment plant as a natural fertilizer for metropolitan agricultural land is worth pondering.