Due to the low level of soil fertility and the limited availability of water, the food situation in Africa is more serious than on any other continent. However, the people meet these challenges with an inventive spirit and much improvisation, in order to utilise all available resources.
Neglected for decades in terms of politics and science, the intensive cultivation of urban areas and the areas surrounding them makes an important contribution with regard to the income and food security of poor population groups, whilst at the same time carrying health and environmental risks. The goal of the “UrbanFoodPlus” project, which is coordinated by the University of Kassel and the Ruhr University, Bochum, is to understand, to boost, and to optimise the various forms of urban farming.Agricultural scientists and soil specialists, working together with economists, wastewater engineers, ethnologists from Göttingen and geographers from Freiburg, develop interdisciplinary approaches to unlocking the full potential of the growing of staple foods and vegetables, and of animal husbandry, in farming niches of urban areas and the surrounding areas. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will supply 4.3 million Euros over the next three years. This is a portion of the total of 7.5 million Euros that will be made available over a period of five years.
Initial field research takes place in Ouagadougou/Burkina Faso and Tamale/Ghana, and will then be extended to other West African cities. The trials will include small-scale crop-growing experiments, questioning of growers, sellers and administration representatives. There will also be extensive training measures on simple technological innovations, including the use of charcoal both as a water filter and an organic fertilizer.The scheme is divided into several project groups. A working group led by Bürkert is examining biodiversity, food efficiency, flow of materials and certification measures in vegetable production. Prof. Schlecht (University of Kassel and Georg August University, Göttingen), leads a project group that is analysing the efficiency of animal husbandry systems; this includes both the use of stock-feeds, and the utilisation of accumulating dung. Other project groups led by Prof. Marschner and Prof. Wichern (both from the Ruhr University, Bochum) determine the influence of natural fertilizers and household waste water on soil quality and product hygiene, aspects of food security, socio-political frame conditions (Prof. Schareika, University of Göttingen) and possible politico-economical profits derived from the suggested improvements (Prof. Löwenstein, University of Bochum). “Hereby, we want to take sociological and politico-economical consequences into account”, says Bürkert: “How do these urban economic cycles lower the risk of poverty? What part do the women play and how does their task in raising food security influence their role in society? What significance does this type of farming have, especially for ethnic minorities in society?” Prof. Drescher of the University of Freiburg concerns himself with this matter in particular.
Sebastian Mense | idw
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