"To Subsidise My Income": Urban Farming in an East-African Town

Article excerpt

"To Subsidise My Income": Urban Farming in an East-African Town. By Dick Foeken. Afrika-studiecentrum Series Volume 7. Boston and Leiden: Brill, 2006. Pp. 223; 5 maps, 3 figures. $39.00 paper.

In To Subsidise My Income: Urban Farming in an East-African Town, Foeken examines urban farming in and around the Kenyan town of Nakuru. A great deal of the data for the book comes from a series of studies conducted within the context of the Nakuru Urban Agricultural Research Project (NUAP) in 1999 and 2000. The study utilizes data from two surveys and four sub-studies at the Masters level on the environmental impact of urban farming, school farming, impact of NGO support for urban farmers, and decision making related to farming in town. The study is framed using a livelihood approach that views people as actors who are actively engaged in strategies attempting to maintain or improve a certain level of livelihood under unfavorable circumstances.

The book is divided into eleven concise chapters under headings such as "The Issue," The Setting," "The Farmers," "The Crops," "The Environment," and "The Support." It examines urban agriculture as a livelihood strategy pursued by many households (largely low income) to "subsidise" their income. Strategies pursued by households are placed within the context of "access to" or "exclusion from" various types of resources including natural, physical, financial, human, and social. While it is well known by now that urban farming is a strategy pursued by households in response to poverty, the most intriguing conclusion of this study is that while the "poor" depend on urban agriculture for their survival or at least to maintain a certain level of standard of living, they lack the necessary resources (i.e., land, funds, and technical support) to benefit from it as much as households that are "better-off."

The strength of this monograph lies in the fact that it is one of the very few published works available that attempts to examine different aspects/effects of urban farming and present the data in a single text. The relevance of the topic is much more magnified when one considers the fact that Africa currently has the fastest urban growth rate in the world. …