Residents turn to urban agriculture to mitigate drought

With consecutive droughts affecting urbanites as well, Bulawayo residents have turned to urban agriculture in their numbers as a mitigation measure.

Government and humanitarian organisations have since incorporated the urban poor into drought relief programmes.

Over 25 000 urban food-insecure households in Bulawayo and Harare have started receiving government grain after an assessment indicated that they were increasingly vulnerable, following drought in the 2018/2019 season.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) about three million of the 8, 5 million Zimbabweans at risk of food insecurity are in urban areas.

Gone are the days when urban dwellers would wait for their relatives in rural areas to be sending them produce from their fields.

Residents of towns and cities, Bulawayo included, now have small pieces of land where they grow crops, especially the staple maize every cropping season.

Now with the 2019/2020 beckoning, residents across the high-density suburbs of Bulawayo are already tilling their pieces of land in anticipation of the rains.

A drive along Bulawayo-Plumtree Highway will show that significant ground has been covered by Nketa and Emganwini residents as far as preparations for the rainy season are concerned.

“Urban agriculture is very important looking at the drought that we are facing,” Ward 1Councillor, Mlandu Ncube, told CITE.

“It (urban agriculture) actually helps in providing for urban households because if it is properly planned and with water  available it can be all-season farming, meaning you will also have something to sell for your upkeep.”

He said city fathers were encouraging residents to venture into properly regulated agriculture, ensuring that they do not use land designated for other purposes or treated municipal water.

“Residents must first confirm with the planning authorities about the space they intend to use,” said Ncube.

He added residents needed to take precautionary measures to ensure the growth of crops in the city becomes a successful venture.

“They must avoid river or stream bank cultivation because that will lead to clashes between EMA (Environmental Management Agency), Council and residents,” said the councillor.

In the past, the Bulawayo City Council has slashed maize grown at undesignated places.

“Residents must make sure that they don’t vandalise Council infrastructure during farming, such as sewer pipes, water pipes, and roads because that can affect everyone,” added Ncube.

“Above all urban agriculture must be encouraged because it also helps to green our city.”

But Bulawayo businessman, Tshidzanani Malaba, said the mushrooming of urban agriculture was an indication; something was not alright in Zimbabwe.

“Urban agriculture is a symptom of something wrong,” he said.

He said the practice was an indication people were idle in the cities as a result of a dysfunctional industry.

“We need to solve the root cause,” he added.

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