Over three billion people live in urban areas worldwide, accounting for 55% of the world’s population. Furthermore, 68% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050 (United Nations, 2018). This makes one question whether we can meet the demands for healthy food. The increase in urban population has led to a rise in urban farming activities, which encourages people to take part in governing the food system and gives people the chance to learn about food sovereignty in an urban setting. Food sovereignty is a process of increasing democracy to rebuild local, independent, healthy and environmentally sound food systems.
Since the implementation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme and the devaluation of the national currency, the economy of Zimbabwe deteriorated as unemployment, food prices, hunger and household poverty increased (Mambiravana, Shava & Gunhidzirai, 2022). The World Food Programme (2022) reported that 7.7 million households, which constitute half of Zimbabwe’s population, are food insecure. Food insecurity is defined as not being able to get food, not about how much food is available (Sen, 1981). This affects the attainment of SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and the sustainability of urban households.
The United Nations General Assembly aimed to create a world where no one goes hungry and therefore issued a global action in 2015 called Zero Hunger Challenge, which encompassed efforts across multiple levels and sectors (UNDP, 2015). This facilitated a collaboration between various actors on a national scale who are invested in ending hunger and malnutrition. Previous studies in Zimbabwe focused on urban farming as a source of employment, household income and its impact on the urban environment income. However, this study explored whether urban farming effectively alleviates hunger among vulnerable households. This study adopted the Sustainable livelihood approach (SLA) because households in Chitungwiza Municipality are using available resources and assets in their community to embark on urban farming.
The study posed the following questions:
- What are the dominant forms of urban farming done by households in Chitungwiza Municipality?
- How effective is urban farming in alleviating hunger and deprivation in Chitungwiza Municipality?
- What services are provided by Chitungwiza Municipality and the Department of Social Development (DSD) to support vulnerable households?
This qualitative study was conducted in Chitungwiza Municipality, a dormitory city 25km from Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. The population is estimated to be around 397 000 (Zim Statistics, 2022). Purposive sampling was used in selecting participants of this study (heads of households, Municipal officials and Social welfare officers). We conducted interviews and focus group discussions (FGD) with the participants.
In Chitungwiza, Municipality urban farmers are involved in crop production and poultry farming. Some crops being ploughed include maize, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions and vegetables. Furthermore, others are into fruit farming, such as avocadoes, mangoes, bananas, peaches, grapes and guavas. Those households in poultry farming are rearing chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, and birds in their backyards. The following are the views of participants:
I no longer buy vegetables and maize because I plough these crops from the wetlands behind Chibuku stadium (HH 12).
Since 2009 l have been practicing poultry farming. I surplus broilers eggs, chicken, and turkey to four Early Childhood Development Centers in Units H, D, and E. This initiative has allowed my family to eat proteins such as chicken and turkey feet, intestines, and chicken heads daily (HH 09).
Nutritional changes: Many vulnerable households are practicing urban farming to enable them to have a nutritious and balanced meal that is vital for the attainment of growth and development. The participants who took part in this study indicated that:
My grandchildren no longer suffer from kwashiorkor and infectious diseases because they get a lot of Vitamin C from my orchard (HH18).
Other participants highlighted key challenges they face:
Although I try to provide a balanced diet for my children, they are always sick. I do not know if it is because of the sewage flowing down the water streams or air pollution (HH 5).
Household changes in food consumption: This study sought to understand whether urban farming contributes to changes in household food consumption. Below are the views of the participants:
Since I started farming maize and sweet potatoes, there has always been plenty of food in my house; although my children have their preferences lam happy, at least throughout the year, they have never slept on an empty stomach (HH10).
Although HH 3 indicated that her family has positive changes in food consumption, one of the participants submitted that:
I can only manage to provide my family with two meals per day, the word balanced diet does not exist in this household. The money l get from my poultry farming is diverted to other pressing needs such as school fees, utilities, and rental fees (HH 27).
Challenges faced by urban farmers: The study findings reported that heads of households face social, climate change, and economic challenges, which affect the attainment of SDG 2 (Zero hunger). Below are the views of the participants:
There has been less rainfall for the past five years, leading to decreased outputs. Furthermore, the heat wave is extremely bad for the crops as they wilt (HH 25).
In Units L and A, raising land barons and housing cooperatives has led to the confiscation of the land which we used to grow crops. Thus, l conflicted with the municipal officials and was once incarcerated for farming on Municipality land. This has affected me because that land was my livelihood as l used to grow crops for commercial purposes and household consumption (HH 19).
Extreme hours of load shedding and cable theft have led me to downs scale my poultry project because the birds and chickens often get rotten in the fridge (HH 18).
This paper attempts to contribute to the field of food security by showing that urban farming promotes sustainable livelihoods and improves health equity. The conclusions were drawn from the participants’ findings in this study. Using the Sustainable Livelihood Approach, the findings denoted those vulnerable households are involved in urban farming (crop production and poultry farming) in their backyards, village land, wetlands and unoccupied land in Chitungwiza Municipality, Zimbabwe. The analysis of the findings reported that urban farming is increasing food consumption in food-insecure households. Furthermore, households’ access to nutritious food has led to a decline in malnourished children. However, it is noted that urban farmers are experiencing various social, economic and climate change challenges in their farming activities.
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