A4NH / Agri-Health / Animal Diseases / East Africa / Epidemiology / Health / ILRI / Kenya / West Africa / Zoonotic Diseases

Urban agriculture: Where suburbs and farms, pathogens and livestock, meet and mix

A dairy farm in Dagoretti, a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, where lines between city-life and farm-life are blurred (photo credit: Tristan McConnell).

Tristan McConnell reported in the GlobalPost yesterday that ‘In modern Africa, it can be hard to tell where the city ends and the countryside begins.

Rural Kenyans flocking to the city in ever-greater numbers bring their cows and crops, while the fast-growing cities sprawl outward, gobbling up fields and forests. . . . Driving toward the Nairobi suburb of Dagoretti, tall stalks of maize peak out between the neighboring walls of block apartments and banana trees peer over the tin-roofed shanties. Around corners appear little valleys patch-worked with smallholder plots known as shambas growing kale, spinach and carrots. . . .

‘This is all good, as the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute, points out. The benefits of urban livestock keeping are many: from improved food security, nutrition and health from livestock products, creation of jobs and protection from food price volatility. But the organization also warns: “The risks in urban livestock are also large: unsanitary conditions and weak infrastructure mean that livestock can be a source of pollution and disease.”. . .

The concentration of people and the mess of urbanization makes the emergence of new diseases more likely,” said Dr. Eric Fèvre, an epidemiologist working at the International Livestock Research Institute.

A study in the journal, “Tropical Animal Health and Production,” found that a quarter of infectious diseases in low-income countries, such as Kenya, come from animals. New examples emerge every four months. But the fear of these diseases is out of step with the real scale of the threat.

The answer, researchers argue, is not to legislate against keeping animals in urban environments, as governments often do, but to embrace and improve urban farming to make it safe and more hygienic.

Milk offers an example of how risks can be reduced, meaning that farmers get the financial benefit, consumers get the health benefit and potential disease can be checked.

Kenyans drink a staggering amount of milk, up to 100 kilograms a year each, with the vast majority bought on the informal market, at street stalls, milk bars or straight from the farmer, rather than processed, packaged and sold at a supermarket.

In terms of GDP, milk is more important than [the staple crop] maize,” said Amos Omore, a dairy expert. . . .

Ndumbuini Dairy and Milk Bar in Kabete, a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: Tristan McConnell).

Read the whole article by Tristan McConnell in the GlobalPost: Urban farming: A lesson from Africa, 8 Oct 2012.

One thought on “Urban agriculture: Where suburbs and farms, pathogens and livestock, meet and mix

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