The Tendency to Urban-Farm in Accra: A Cultural Lag-Labor Surplus Nexus

By Asafu-Adjaye, Prince | Journal of Third World Studies, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

The Tendency to Urban-Farm in Accra: A Cultural Lag-Labor Surplus Nexus


Asafu-Adjaye, Prince, Journal of Third World Studies


With the rapid urban growth rates, a diminishing ability of many countries to feed the increasing national populations, persistent and escalating food prices, urban agriculture is increasingly becoming a food security strategy both at national and household levels (1)

INTRODUCTION

Globally, urban farming is a fast growing enterprise with about 800 million city farmers whose activities ensure, according to United Nations (UN) statistics, one-seventh of the world's food production. (2) In the developing world, foodstuffs of urban origin crucially reduce the incidence of adult and child malnutrition in fast expanding cities. (3) It is argued that in sub-Sahara Africa. urban farming is a very important activity as it contributes significantly to the provision of food for African urban families, especially the poor families, as well as employment in the informal sector. (4) A significant percent of urban households in this sub-region are engaged in urban farming. It is estimated that in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) over a quarter of the households are into urban farming, in Youande (Cameroon), it is 35 percent while it is over a third of households in Kampala (Uganda). (5) In Tanzania and Kenya the prevalence rates of household engagement in urban farming are 68 percent and 63 percent, respectively. (6) In South Africa, urban vegetable production over the past twenty years has significantly increased as sourcing from Africa by supermarkets in Europe has increased with an equally large expansion in retailing in Africa itself. (7)

Though deemed a rural activity, farming is ubiquitous in Accra the pinnacle of urbanism in Ghana. In Accra, Ghana's capital, urban farming provides the city with 90 percent of its fresh vegetables. (8) Although urban vegetable production constitutes a substantial quantum of Accra's fresh vegetables, it is mostly the wealthier crass who benefits from such production. (9) In addition to providing a greater proportion of Accra's vegetable requirements, urban farming employs about a thousand people in Accra. (10)

Urban agriculture involves "cultivating plants, raising animals and fish and growing fungi within a greater metropolitan area or urban centre." (11) "Urban agriculture refers to the cultivation of crops at both the subsistence and commercial levels and keeping of livestock in open spaces in urban areas. (12) Therefore urban agriculture involves the activity of tilling the land for cropping purposes or keeping livestock in urban sites for subsistence or commercial objectives.

Given that farming in Ghana is deemed a quintessentially rural activity, the visible presence of farm sites in Accra and other urban centers of Ghana generates curiosity. What explains the tendency for some residents of Accra to take up farming instead of non-farm jobs? In explaining the tendency to urban-farm, a dualism of perspectives has emerged. First, the labor surplus model/dependency theory argues that urban farming is an economic venture. (13) On the other hand, urban farming is considered a cultural practice and this perspective is typified by the cultural lag model. (14) This paper endeavors to contribute to the discussion on the incidence of urban farming by specifically looking at open-space vegetable cultivation in Accra. The paper traces the trajectory of urban farming in Accra and discusses access to urban lands for farming. The cultural lag and labor surplus models used in explaining urban farming as well as other models on urban land use are also assessed in the light of the findings of this study.

THE TRAJECTORY OF URBAN FARMING IN ACCRA

Accra is Ghana's most populous and urbanized city. In 2000, Accra's population was estimated at 1.66 million people with an estimated annual population growth rate of 3.4 percent. (15) At an annual growth rate of 3.4 percent, the current estimate of Accra's population is 2.23 million. However. the population growth rate in North and West Accra is in the region of 10 percent per annum. …

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