- Background information
Urbanization is one of the major issues facing mankind today and is in its extent unique in world history (RUAF, 2007). In Nigeria, agriculture is the dominant economic activity (CBN, 2003). In recent years, urbanization has led to an increasing loss of agricultural land. Urbanization presents both challenges and opportunities for the developing countries as a whole. There is an indication that the challenges of urbanization out-weigh its opportunities in these regions. This may be because urbanization has not yet been matched with infrastructural and economic development. This in turn leads to urban poverty and food insecurity (Drescher, 2001).
Enete and Achike (2008), opined that sub-Saharan Africa is the only region of the world where agricultural output has been trailing population growth for most of the last three decades. They further noted that agricultural production has not only been unstable in the region but has once again resumed a steady decline since 1998 (1998-2002). This may be due to rural-urban migration and low productivity in agriculture.
It is expected that by 2020, 85% of the poor in Latin America and about 40-45% of the poor in Africa will be concentrated in towns and cities (RUAF, 2007). Consequently, many city dwellers will be faced with the reality of unemployment, inadequate food and shelter, and they are powerless to influence the decisions affecting their lives. These are all dimensions of poverty of which hunger is the most fundamental (World Bank, 2000).
Urban Agriculture which is the growing of crops and raising of animals within and around cities (Drescher,2003), has emerged as a strategic imperative for developing countries (Drakakris-Smith,1997). Urban agriculture (UA) is not a new or recent invention. Agricultural activities within city limits have existed since the first urban populations were established thousands of years ago (Drescher, 2002). It is only recently that UA has become a systematic focus of research and development attention, as its scale and importance in an urbanizing world become increasingly recognized (Van Vechuizen, Prain and Dezeeuw, 2001). This is essentially due to its potential for poverty reduction, economic empowerment, and household food security.
According to UNDP (1996), Urban Agriculture refers to an activity that produces, processes, and markets food and other products, on land and water in urban and peri-urban areas, applying intensive production methods, and using natural resources and urban wastes, to yield a diversity of crops and livestock. Its important sectors include horticulture, livestock, fodder milk production, aquaculture and forestry (FAO, 2002),
It is estimated that 800 million people are engaged in urban agriculture world wide of which 200 million are considered to be market producers, employing 150 million people fulltime (UNDP 1996). These Urban farmers produce substantial amount of food for urban consumers. Armar-Klemesu (2000) noted that, as at 1993, 15-20% of the World’s food was produced in the urban areas. Other research information from African cities are, Dakar; produces 60% of the national vegetable consumption whilst urban poultry production amounts to 65% of the national supply (RUAF, 2007). In Accra, 90% of the city’s fresh vegetable consumption is from production within the city (RUAF, 2007).
Urban producers achieve real efficiencies by making productive use of underutilized resources, such as vacant lands, treated waste water, recycled wastes, and unemployed labour (www.cityfarmers.org). In this case, productivity can be as much as or even higher than rural agriculture. This productivity will in turn contribute to the well being of the economy as a whole (Olayide and Heady, 1982)
Moreover, urban agriculture is often associated with agricultural intensification (Enete and Achike, 2008) which usually brings about productivity increases and overall agricultural development.
- Problem Statement
In Nigeria, after her independence, the economy shifted from mainly agricultural to other sectors. The poor then started finding their way into these sectors, hence population in urban area increased tremendously to the neglect of rural agriculture. Agricultural sector therefore started lagging behind, and hence failed to keep pace with Nigeria’s rapid population growth. The country, which once exported food, started relying on food imports to sustain itself (Wikipedia, 2007).
However, economic reforms by past administration in Nigeria, has led to the retrenchment of workers especially at the lower level, such that the poor, who found their way into the urban areas because of jobs in industries and civil service have suddenly found themselves jobless.
In 2003, the unemployment rate in Nigeria was 10.8 percent overall. However, urban unemployment was 12.3 percent which exceeded rural unemployment of 7.4 percent (Wikipedia, 2007). As unemployment rate, (especially of the vulnerable group in the urban areas) increases, the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing became increasingly difficult for them to come by.
By 2005, available economic indices showed that about 70% of Nigerians live on less than one dollar per day (U.S Department of State Reports on Human Rights Practice, 2005). One of the solutions to the problem is urban agriculture. However, urban agriculture, despite its potentials for ameliorating poverty, has not sufficiently been reflected in urban planning process in most developing countries (Drescher, 2003). There is every indication that quite a sizeable number of the urban poor are engaged in urban agriculture (Enete and Achike, 2008).
As the population of the urban poor practicing agriculture increases, there is an increased competition for the few, available urban land. This could increase the risk of urban agriculture as urban structures could come without notice and midway into a planting season thereby destroying the crops planted. In addition, there is also the risk of low investment and hence low productivity of urban agriculture because of under capitalization of the poor who are into it.
Several studies have been carried out on urban agriculture in Africa (e.g Kicher, 1995; Rogerson, 1998; Agyemang and Smith, 1999; Armar-Klemesu Margaret and Maxwell, Daniel, 2000; Lynch, Binns and Olofin, 2001). All these studies concluded that urban agriculture has the potential for poverty reduction, food security and employment generation. These studies fail to deal with the issue of whether or not the available resources are efficiently being utilized by the urban farmers.
The only study that attempted to answer the question is a study in Ghana by Danso, Drechel, Wiafe-Antwi and Gyieke (2002). They only dwelt on the existing pattern of production. Also, they identify market proximity as a major incentive for the intensification of existing pattern of production. Another study by Enete and Achike (2008) made a comparison of the use of purchased inputs between urban and rural farmers in Ohafia south east Nigeria. They observed the use of purchased inputs in urban areas as being significantly higher than that of rural areas. They did not give clear answers to the following research questions.
- What are the production systems used by the urban farmers?
- Are the available resources being efficiently allocated or utilized by the urban farmers?
- What are the constraints on urban agricultural production and how best to mitigate them?
Hence, this study attempts to give answers to the above research questions especially as it concerns urban vegetable farmers in Akwa Ibom State.
- Objective of the study
The general Objective of the study is to analyze the resource use efficiency among urban waterleaf farmers in Akwa Ibom State.
The specific objectives are to:-
- describe the socio-economic characteristics and the production systems of urban waterleaf farmers in the area.
- to estimate the production function and determine the economic efficiency of resource use among urban waterleaf farmers in the study area .
- estimate the cost of and returns to urban waterleaf farming in the area.
- identify major constraints to urban farming in the area.
- make recommendations based on findings of the study.