Unlike other food commodities like grains, yams and cassava which are farmed in the rural areas and transported to the cities, vegetables are highly perishable and need to stay fresh to preserve its nutritional and market value.
As the size and population of African cities grow, and more people migrate to the cities from villages, urban vegetable farming has become the best alternative to get fresh vegetables to the city’s markets.
According to UN estimates, the urban population of Africa will treble by the year 2050. Africa has had one of the world’s fastest rural-urban migration rates in recent decades. In the absence of adequate refrigerated storage and good roads, vegetable supply to most African cities is increasingly supported by reliable urban vegetable farms.
Urban vegetable farming provides between 70 to 100 percent of the vegetables consumed in many African cities today. Closeness to the city and much lower transportation costs have made this venture a very lucrative one for more than 100 million Africans.
Over 30 different types of vegetables are farmed in Africa’s urban centers. These farms are situated in residential backyards or open space areas (along roads, streams or in open fields).
The most popular commercially farmed vegetables are spring onions, lettuce, spinach greens, carrots, onions, tomatoes, hot and sweet pepper, green beans, okra and cucumber.
Hundreds of local vegetables are also farmed because of their popular use in several African local dishes.
The greatest advantage of urban vegetable farming is that with greater dependence on irrigation (bore holes, wells, streams and pipe-borne water), vegetables can be made available to the market all-year round.
These vegetables can command much higher prices during the dry seasons and are known to be very profitable ventures and a great alternative use for undeveloped urban land.