Urban agriculture and economic change in the Zambia Copperbelt: The cases of Ndola, Kitwe and Luanshya
Urban agriculture (UA) in the developing world is widely framed as being essentially a survival and coping strategy, practised primarily by the poor, and is promoted for the purposes of poverty alleviation and the improvement of food security. In Africa, this narrative extends to one of crisis response, with urban agriculture perceived to have increased markedly in relation to the ongoing impacts of conflict, structural adjustment and economic decline. Despite its widespread existence, urban agriculture has generally received little recognition or support from urban authorities. The latter is a key concern identified in the literature, since urban agriculture, and those who practise it frequently exist in a state of great insecurity. It is argued that in order to enhance the potential benefits of urban agriculture, and to protect the poor who rely on the activity for food and income, urban agriculture must be more effectively integrated into urban planning strategies. The Copperbelt Province of Zambia provides an important case study through which to explore the coping and survival strategies of urban residents in the context of ongoing and pronounced economic crises. It is suggested that urban agriculture increased significantly in the region in response to local experiences of economic downturn. This research project is based on detailed field-based research in the three major towns of Kitwe, Ndola and Luanshya within the Copperbelt Province. Through key informant interviews and questionnaires, this study has investigated the significance of urban agriculture in the three towns, as well as exploring the impact of a newly adopted and innovative urban agriculture policy in Ndola, which may be unique in Africa. The rate of participation in urban agriculture in the three towns overwhelmingly exceeded that found in other surveys in southern African cities, with 84% of the 679 households surveyed engaged in the practice. Further, although urban agriculture was still prevalent in low-income areas, rates of participation in better-off communities were unexpectedly higher than those in poorer ones. This finding problematises the assumption that the poor are necessarily the best represented in urban agriculture, and supports the argument that poverty, despite having significant impacts on the ways in which people participate in urban agriculture, cannot itself be taken as an indicator of participation. Unfortunately, the strategy adopted in Ndola, albeit developed with admirable intentions, was found to have had a very limited impact. Whilst this study problematises the notion of the ‘policy solution’, it is nevertheless argued that in the context of increasing urbanisation, and subsequent pressure on land and resources, the poor do require support and protection. However, policy must be developed sensitively, or risk further exacerbating existing inequalities. The high rate of participation in better-off communities emphasises the need for a more critical understanding of urban agriculture that takes into account issues of power and inequality. The findings of this study suggest that there is more at play here than economic necessity, and in order to fully understand the barriers to participation, these nuances must be more carefully explored.
Advisor: Nel, Etienne; Binns, Tony
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Zambia; Urban agriculture; Policy; Participation; Class
Research Type: Thesis