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'Zim laws support urban agriculture'
The Herald
July 27, 2004

A STUDY conducted by the Municipal Development Partnership (MDP) and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has established that Zimbabwean laws support urban agriculture but have been wrongly interpreted to suppress the practice.

The research findings were made public last week at a workshop on the policy and legislative framework for urban agriculture in Zimbabwe.

"The research also establishes that in what is seemingly a very prohibitive environment, there are indeed many opportunities that exist in legislation for the practice of urban agriculture, contrary to popular belief that the law prohibits urban agriculture in Zimbabwe."

The research found out that there are a number of legislative pieces that impact on urban agriculture at both national and municipal levels.

The legislation, however, does not refer to urban agriculture per se, but rather to farming in urban areas.

"It is the combination of the multiplicity of legislation and the silence in that legislation on urban agriculture, coupled with misinterpretation by those that enforce the law, that has led to confusion in the sector, on its legal standing," says the study.

The MDP and ZELA say it is that confusion that prompted the research.

The main purpose of the research was to identify relevant and current policies and legislation, which impact on urban agriculture as a basis for initiating the improvement of current legislation.

"The key finding from this research is that urban agriculture as a concept or practice is not prohibited in the legal system and especially with specific reference to the scope of this inquiry, in Harare. Although there are legal provisions which may be utilised to outlaw some or all agricultural activities within any urban set-up, the current laws are designed to regulate rather than prohibit."

Urban agriculture has lately become a full-time job for households who have literally invaded all open spaces for agricultural needs.

"Urban agriculture has also grown in substance, as people have now diversified from the traditional crops to include new commercial crops like mushrooms," said the researchers.

Addressing the workshop, MDP-ESA regional director Mr George Matovu said the growth of urban agriculture would significantly contribute to food self-sufficiency, employment generation and improvement of life for urbanities.

"In 2005, we plan to work with a select few pilot municipalities in a programme called 'Making the Edible Landscape: Integrating Urban Agriculture in Urban Planning and Design'," he said.

The International Development Research Centre would partner MDP in the design of specific layout plans that integrate urban agriculture and support its development and construction.

"This way we hope to demonstrate in practical terms how integrating urban agriculture into urban development can be done in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing, adding beauty to the landscape and feeding the urban poor," said Mr Matovu.

Urban Councils' Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) secretary-general Mr Ferris Zimunya said urban councils are faced with increasing challenges of unemployment, urban food insecurity, and weakening economic base that lead to the impoverishment of the urban dwellers.

He expressed hope that urban dwellers would be able to utilise the many farms surrounding urban centres acquired by Government for agricultural purposes.

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