SUSTAINABLE URBAN LIVELIHOOD CHALLENGES : A CASE FOR URBAN AGRO-ECOLOGY IN JOHANNESBURG
The challenges facing major cities like Johannesburg remain huge, amongst these; rapid urbanization, food insecurity, unemployment, skills and capacity needs, environmental degradation and waste management. A variety of reasons are believed to account to the current status quo of urban cities, amongst these: rapid urbanization, and competing interests for scarce resources. Similar trends of rapid urbanization and competing resource interest is noticeable across most cities in the world. For Johannesburg, in the Gauteng city-region for instance, the population is expected to grow to 14 million inhabitants by 2015, thus putting the region in the top 15 biggest urban cities in the world (South African Cities Network 2006) Various evidence suggest cities remain the engines and drivers of national economies (South African Cities Network 2006), thus making the rationale to focus a large proportion of relief and development efforts to the most part to major cities is justifiable. In this research, urban agro-ecology practice was explored, for its benefits, constrains and possible solution to the challenges facing urban livelihood in the city of Johannesburg. By using the Siyakhana food garden, an initiative of the Health Promotion Unit (HPU), of the University of Witwatersrand located in Bezuidenhout Park, Central Johannesburg, some light was shed on how urban agro-ecology in Johannesburg could be used as a tool to mitigate the livelihood challenges of poverty, unemployment, disease, etc. faced by the Johannesburg metropolis. Most respondents (87.5% of the sampled population, most of whom stakeholders and beneficiaries of the Siyakhana food garden), indicated that the benefits of food gardens, if properly coordinated and if practiced at a sufficient scale has the potential of invigorating and transforming lives. Amongst some of the benefits enumerated were fresh food products such as fruits and vegetables, employment opportunities, skills and capacity development, recreation and research. This category of respondents cautioned however that for urban agro-ecology to be useful, several milestones such as proper food production channels and commercialization strategies for end product needed to be carefully thought off and put in place so as to create suitable linkages between small subsistence farmers and the bigger firms and food shops. Overall the research project suggest a model of urban agro-ecology, one that can contribute to alleviate the socioeconomic situation of the urban poor and improve environmental degradation is possible.
MM - P&DM
Sustainability, Ecology, Agro-ecology