A new Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) publication says policymakers need to act now to ensure that African cities will be ?green? enough to meet their nutrition and income needs in a sustainable way.

The publication, ?Growing greener cities in Africa?, is the first status report on African urban and peri-urban horticulture ? the home, school, community and market gardens that produce fruits and vegetables in and around the continent?s cities.

The report draws on surveys and case studies from 31 countries across the African continent, and makes recommendations on how cities can better prepare to face the rapidly increasing demand for food and other basic amenities.

According to the report, many African countries have recorded strong, sustained economic growth over the past decade, leading to more urbanization and raising hopes of a new era of shared prosperity. But increasingly, urban areas also draw people in search of a way out of rural poverty, only to find little, if any improvement in their lives, it said.

More than half of all urban Africans live in slums, up to 200 million survive on less than $2 a day, and poor urban children are as likely to be chronically malnourished as poor rural children.

In the publication?s foreword, Modibo Traor?, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection wrote ?The challenge of achieving a ?zero hunger? world ? in which everyone is adequately nourished and all food systems are resilient ? is as urgent in African cities as it is in rural areas.?

?African policymakers need to act now to steer urbanization from its current, unsustainable path towards healthy, ?greener? cities that ensure food and nutrition security, decent work and income, and a clean environment for all their citizens,? the foreword continues.

By the end of the current decade, 24 of the world?s 30 fastest growing cities will be African and the publication cites surveys showing that between 2010 and 2030, the urban population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double, from about 300 to 600 million.

The publication urged national governments and city administrations to work together with growers, processors, suppliers, vendors and others to give market gardens and urban and peri-urban agriculture the political, logistical and educational support necessary for sustainable development.

Among the specific recommendations, the publication advised policymakers to zone and protect land and water for market gardens, and encourage growers to adopt FAO?s ?Save and Grow? farming model. The ?Save and Grow? seeks to boost yields while conserving and enhancing natural resources. It includes applying the right amount of appropriate, external inputs at the right time ? such as pesticides, fertilizers and seeds.

By Ekow Quandzie

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