Is Urban Farming Impossible?

By Achmad Solikhin

The adoption of the Urban New Agenda remains challenging for urban think tanks, most notably agriculturists who strive to resolve a dilemma between urban population expansion and agricultural land use. For instance, in Bandung, Indonesia, the increase in urban population growth needs two hundred hectares of agricultural lands to be converted into human settlements, industries, and other public properties. The increase also exacerbate the ecological burdens, such as pollution, water crisis, fossil fuel energy issues, and climate change.

Besides Bandung, the lack of agricultural landscape for farming that would feed the urban inhabitants has been an emerging issue throughout Indonesian cities. This is not in line with the Indonesia Government Regulation No. 19, 2016, which demands sustainable farming land for food. In addition, it is contradictory to paragraph 95 of the New Urban Agenda, that clearly supports urban agriculture and farming. Furthermore, if interlinked with nexus approach and Indonesian commitment for green house gas emission reduction and food security, 41% GHG reduction will be very tricky to be implemented in urban area over rural area.

With all these challenges, urban farming seems impossible on a scale. On the other hand, with new technologies and willingness to make a change, it can be done. As a possible solution, urban farming has been introduced to the urban sites, using various innovative techniques such as vertical gardens, aquaculture, small agriculture and rooftop agriculture,to name few. These techniques are demonstrated in the following projects, which are potent for tackling alarming urban farming burden, such as: Food Field, Farm, Sky Green, The Distributed Urban Farming Initiative, and Sharing Backyard. Inspired by these great initiatives as a potential urban landscape solution, a project called : “Carbon Farming Schools” initiated by the Indonesian Green Action Forum emerged.

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The Carbon Farming Schools are suported by UNEP Eco-Peace Leadership Center, Yuhan Kimberly, YUNGA UNFAO, UNESCO, and Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition. The project focuses on both food source and education. I tis run in Bogor, approximately 2 hour drive from Jakarta. Two elementary schools are engaged and supported young agriculturists of Bogor Agricultural University. Around 500 students have been actively involved.

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There is a wide participation also from other segments of society including other youth and local farmers. In the schools, the students are educated about climate change, urban farming, and ecological issues to find solutions and suggest innitiatives to tackle these issues. Subsequently the innitiatives are translated into real action plans. To test-run and implement them, they use a small agroforest in abandoned lands and limited spaces. And how does it look in practice? For example, a small number of fast growing and multipurpose tree species are coupled with vegetable plants. A vertical farming is also alternative technique suitable for limited spaces in front of a house or backyard. The great thing about the project is that it supports the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, making it more than just a collection of words on paper.

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#HackForMombasa

Courtesy of Rhoda Omenya, UN-Habitat

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Hacking. A word more often than not, heavy with negative connotations – specifically with reference to digital technologies. Today, mainstream use of hacking still refers criminal activities but has also given rise to a positive meaning – use of technical computer expertise to solve problems. Extrapolated to the term hackathon – an intense 24 or 48 hour event that provides a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology where people with technical backgrounds come together, form teams around a problem or idea, and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch — these generally take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps, and robots.

UN-Habitat, Youth and Livelihoods Unit in collaboration with SwahiliBox, held a hackathon on May 20th – 21st, in Mombasa County to solve urban challenges that the county is facing. This hackathon is part of a project dubbed Innovate Counties Challenge Project that seeks to include local government partnerships in enabling governance technology applications developed by youth, have tangible impact at the community level. These challenges were identified in a challenge workshop previously held with participation and contribution from a cross cutting representation of pertinent persons from academia, civil society, youth groups, private sector, media and the core partners of the project, the county representatives particularly in the Youth and ICT departments.

The hackathon had participation from students as a result of outreach sessions done at Technical University of Kenya, Mount Kenya University, Kenyatta University and Kenya Methodist University. From the sign-up sheet, 71% were participating in their first hackathon, an indication of both the novelty of the hackathon and the challenges that would be faced therein. As such having the participants take part in a continuous 48 hour hackathon would be strenuous and thus was split in two full days.  Web4All, an ICT Enterprise founded with the sole aim of utilizing ICT to Improve the Livelihood of People in Africa, facilitated the hackathon.

In the first day of the hackathon, participants were grouped into the challenges they wanted to solve and taken through ideation and theme matching, meeting user needs and problem solving and low fidelity prototypes and placeholder sites under rotational mentorship. This enabled them to immerse themselves into the problems they were trying to solve by understanding the main person faced with the challenge – in line with human centered design’s core principle of empathy. Ultimately aiding the teams to narrow their thinking to one solution – what they were envisioning, for whom and how the solution would ameliorate the user(s) life. Day 1 concluded with hacking of their solutions.

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Figure 1 Participants at the end of Day 1

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Figure 2 Working through the Idea Canvas

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Figure 3 John Paul from Web4All taking participants through the Business Model Canvas

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Figure 4 Taking a break to fuel the body

Day 2 of the hackathon had the participants hacking and finalizing their solutions, as the mentors took them through deck preparation and pitching for the presentation.

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Figure 5 Mock pitching to mentors

The hackathon had four judges:

  1. Nyevu Karisa – County Government of Mombasa Officer, Department of Trade, Energy and Industrial Development
  2. David Ogiga – Director, Sote Hub
  3. Adam Chagani – Consultant, UNODC
  4. Sharmaarke Abdullahi – Project Management Officer, UN-Habitat

The air was stiff as teams began presenting their seven minute terse pitches, with a three minute follow up Q&A from the judges. There were thirteen teams exhibiting solutions on varied governance problems from service delivery (waste, transport and water management), tourism promotion, urban farming, county government transparency, to the often forgotten social and intangible human facets of drug abuse, etc. The judges evaluated the presentations based on the tangibility of the solution (thus showing the team’s grasp of the problem being solved), the solution’s feasibility on a technical level, its creativity and originality. Further, the teams had to show that the solution is socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. The teams were additionally judged on their cohesiveness and presentation skills.

The judges then went into weighty deliberations, finally agreeing on the top three teams:

  • Winners: Mji Safi with their innovative solution of preventing food produce at markets turning into organic waste. This would be done using an inventory control system, working with a market management authority and vendors.

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Figure 6 Winners: Mji Safi

  • First Runners Up: Azucorp with a hardware solution of delivering urgent medical supplies using drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) thereby reimagining transport modes. This solution comes an opportune time as the Government of Kenya has recently approved the use of commercial drones.

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Figure 7 First Runners Up Azucorp

  • 2nd Runners Up: Veve with an interactive web portal for both locals and tourists to restore Mombasa as a tourist destination and thereby reversing the drop in Foreign Direct Investment and specifically the five year drop in tourism earnings.

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Figure 8 2nd Runners Up – Veve

Special mention is given to Aqua Harvesters who came in sixth with their novel solution of a solar desalination and pump system that sanitizes and distributes water by exploiting road traffic movement to push water without fuel – consequently tackling water scarcity and quality.

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Figure 9 Judges

Looking ahead, the top six teams will be taken through a fundamental training on the startups and entrepreneurship to give them the starting block to techpreneurship whereas the winners, Mji Safi will continue on with the incubation to develop their solution for piloting and provide them with the necessary skills to develop a business model for scale.

The two days captured the vision, creativity, resourcefulness, and imagination of youth despite the newness of a hackathon in Mombasa County. Emboldening them should be a never ending exploit.

 

Call for applications Global Urban Peace Labs: Colombia Urban Youth Fund project

Paz for Colombia

DEADLINE for submissions: 6th July 2017
DURATION: from July to December 2017

Are you a youth-led organization in Colombia or a Servicio Nacional De Aprendizaje (SENA) apprentice or alumni? Does your organization have an innovative youth leadership model or idea on promoting peace and resilience in cities in Colombia? Is your youth-led organization non-political and non-religious? Does your project aim to promote peace through, but not limited to;

  1. Improving the livelihood of the community and target groups?
  2. Creating jobs or promoting entrepreneurship towards peace and resilience?
  3. Providing ICT driven solutions towards peace building and resilience?
  4. Building peace and resilience through research and training?
  5. Sports and development or creating safe spaces for dialogue towards peace building and resilience?
  6. Building peace and resilience through Art and Culture?
  7. Encouraging/involving youth in governance and governance structures?

Does your project have a keen focus on reintegrating Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members or integrating vulnerable communities and target groups including young women and men in difficult conditions?

Then, Servicio Nacional De Aprendizaje (SENA) and United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) have a great platform for you!

SENA and UN-Habitat are excited to launch the call for applications for the Global Urban Peace Labs programme. This is a grant program that will make an enormous contribution to the peace building process and will provide a platform for young people to develop their potential to serve as catalysts, implementer’s and partners in building a peaceful, more productive and resilient Colombia. This will be achieved not only through the demobilization of former youth combatants part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia but also providing opportunities to SENA apprentices and the victims of the armed conflict to provide models towards contributing to peace and resilience in Colombia.

We are happy to hear from you!

Please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page which will guide you through the application requirements.

For SENA apprentices and alumni please submit your ideas and models through: https://goo.gl/forms/rAgFCDVi2CbTTIIx1 before or on 6th July 2017 to be eligible for a grant.

For non-SENA apprentices and alumni please submit your ideas and models through: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfX0QKqoKfKc-G45_dF-zksCZFsF62AGI1jmzT__S9Xc0wWVA/viewform?usp=sf_link  before or on 6th July 2017 to be eligible for a grant.

Please remember to attach the necessary documents to the indicated email addresses including the budget