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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Load shedding woes: Why urban agriculture can be your ultimate resort in the fight against food insecurity

I’m sure as South Africans we can all agree on the stress that load shedding has put on every facet of our lives. More so when it threatens the sustainability of our food systems.

It wasn’t too long ago that KFC – one of the largest fast-food chains in the country – was forced to temporarily close around 70 of its stores due to the shortage of “chicken on the bone” supplies.

KFC said load shedding had impacted the supply of some essential menu items.

Because of growing expenses and alterations to planting schedules brought on by load shedding, farmers may plant fewer crops as a result and that directly affects the food supply chain meaning shortages are inevitable. And with that, it’s not surprising that our food system will be affected.

It’s not news that load shedding is driving up the cost of food prices at a time when South Africans are under unprecedented economic pressure.

Due to the numerous uncertainties that South Africans face, there is now an even greater need to come up with alternative solutions to guarantee that we have sustainable food sources.

Ludwe Qamata, a.k.a. “The Ghetto Farmer” spoke to IOL Lifestyle about the advantages of urban farming and the necessity of it for preserving food sustainability.

“Urban farming isn’t a new concept, humans have been growing crops in urban areas since settlements first appeared many thousands of years ago. But there’s an urgent need to make this a reality more so now with the challenges we’re facing with load shedding. Urban farming for me was a saving grace.”

Picture by Uthando SA:Facebook

Qamata was imprisoned for three years, during which he developed his garden skills. After he was released, he started gardening again.

He explains that when we talk about urban farming, “we just mean using what you have on hand to cultivate your produce such as seasonal vegetables, in a simple manner using something as straightforward as a tire, your leftover food to fertilise your soil”.

“For instance, because there is little to no space to farm due to congestion in Gugulethu, I had to come up with creative solutions to ensure that I had food. Now, thanks to the skills I’ve picked up along the way, I help seniors learn how to garden at the Sinovuyo Senior Club in Ilitha Park, Khayelitsha.

Picture: Uthando SA/Facebook

“Vertical/urban farming is becoming very popular in South Africa due to limited land for agriculture and more so when we think of budget-friendly in this economy.”

If you look around you, you can see the need to grow your food.

Qamata adds that a big argument for urban farming is that it allows for the use of what we already have in our communities, really bridges the gap created by poverty and among other things uses less water than what is normally used for crops.

In other words, with the limited resources available in South Africa, people can grow their food and even get to sell what they have.

Urban agriculture is a growing industry that offers significant advantages to society and the environment in addition to helping to feed the urban population.

The history of urban farming has seen the practice go out of style after the Second World War, and then have a resurgence in the 90s.

While estimates vary, today between 15% and 20% of the world’s food is grown in urban areas, and this number is steadily increasing.

With our 21st-century cities creating urban sprawl and mass migrations away from rural life, urban agriculture is having a big moment, reports Farmer’s Weekly.

Benefits of starting your own vertical/urban garden:

Helps reduce food waste – According to the United Nations, around 14% of food produced is lost before it even reaches the shelves of a grocery store.

Bridges unemployment gap/poverty reduction – Urban farming can also help support communities through meaningful employment.

Additional advantages of vertical farming include the ability to grow plants year-round indoors and without sunlight due to the use of artificial lighting.


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