In the earlier editions of our printed book, this page was titled “Urban agriculture”. However, urbanisation is an important issue all on its own, and urban agriculture takes place within that context.

“Of course the country needs a rural strategy, but the future of South Africa is urban and the relationship between effective urbanisation and economic growth is very strong”, Ann Bernstein, CEO of the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), has said. Cities are the drivers of economic growth, and we need to plan, design, and manage cities for people (Manuel, 2013). One TED speaker says: “Fundamentally, the way we shape cities is a manifestation of the kind of humanity we bring to bear” (Calthorpe, 2017 – see “Websites & publications” heading).

One of the issues around urbanisation is the disproportionate price the poor pay in commuting time and transport costs. A forward-thinking policy is to create jobs and investments closer to these townships, and so reverse weak spatial governance (Nel, 2018).  Other issues include safety, infrastructure and sanitation, accommodation, health services and food security.

It is right to caution against viewing urban agriculture as a panacea of all that goes wrong in cities (Haysom & Battersby, 2016), yet it does have a part to play. Urban agriculture can be one strategy against crime (Phillips, 2018). It provides food security, entrepreneurial activity, “social capital” and protection for women (Olivier, 2017).

Find the publications and reports at, website of the South African Cities Network (SACN).

Urban agriculture









The Soweto Farmers Market Place exhibit at the WWF SA 2019 Living Planet Conference. Urban agriculture can be defined shortly as the growing of plants and the raising of animals within and around cities.

The most striking feature of urban agriculture, which distinguishes it from rural agriculture, is that it is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system. Such linkages include the use of urban residents as labourers, use of typical urban resources (like organic waste as compost and urban wastewater for irrigation), direct links with urban consumers, direct impacts on urban ecology (positive and negative), being part of the urban food system, competing for land with other urban functions, being influenced by urban policies and plans, etc.

  • Urban agriculture may take place in locations inside the cities (intra-urban) or in the peri-urban areas. The activities may take place on the homestead (on-plot) or on land away from the residence (off-plot), on private land (owned, leased) or on public land (parks, conservation areas, along roads, streams and railways), or semi-public land (schoolyards, grounds of schools and hospitals).
  • Urban agriculture includes food products, from different types of crops (grains, root crops, vegetables, mushrooms, fruits) and animals (poultry, rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, guinea pigs, fish, etc.) as well as non-food products (like aromatic and medicinal herbs, ornamental plants, tree products, etc.). or combinations of these. Often the more perishable and relatively high-valued vegetables and animal products and by-products are favoured.
  • In most cities in developing countries, an important part of urban agricultural production is for self-consumption, with surpluses being traded. However, the importance of the market-oriented urban agriculture, both in volume and economic value, should not be underestimated (as will be shown later). Products are sold at the farm gate, by cart in the same or other neighbourhoods, in local shops, on local (farmers) markets or to intermediaries and supermarkets. Mainly fresh products are sold, but part of it is processed for own use, cooked and sold on the streets, or processed and packaged for sale to one of the outlets mentioned above.

Urban agriculture is an integral part of the urban system.

Source: adapted from notes on the RUAF Foundation website, 

International business environment

SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) 11 is Sustainable cities and communities. Find the latest The Sustainable Development Goals Report which measures progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Some role players

National strategy and government contact

National Planning Commission (NPC)  About 30-million South Africans live in urban areas, but by 2030, an additional 11-million would move to cities – with the urban rate increasing to 70% of all South Africans. Where these people would be housed? Where they would work? What water they would use and what kind of transport they would use (among other things)? The NPC, responsible for developing a long term vision and strategic plan for South Africa, looked at these issues and produced the National Development Plan (NDP).

Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Cabinet adopted the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) in 2016. The IUDF seeks to foster a shared understanding across government and society about how best to manage urbanisation and achieve the goals of economic development, job creation and improved living conditions for South Africans. See

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) (i) Small Holder Development Tel: 012 319 8495 (ii) Subsistence Farming Tel: 012 319 7331 (iii) Find Guidelines for Urban and peri-urban animal agriculture, compiled by the Directorate Animal and Aquaculture Production. Find contact details of this and other directorates at




Role players

Find the links to the cities at – Buffalo City, Cape Town, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, Ethekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Msunduzi, Nelson Mandela Metropole and Tshwane.

  • ABALIMI BEZEKHAYA and Organic micro-farming and gardening in the townships of Cape Town, the “first city in Africa to have an approved Urban Agriculture policy as of 2007”. ABALIMI directly interfaces with between 50-200 community projects every year, and up to 3000 micro-farmers and gardeners every year. ABALIMI made it onto the Food Tank/Ecowatch list of “24 Groups Leading the Charge in Cultivating Urban Farming” (internationally). See heading 6. Congrats!
  • Afesis-corplan Tel: 043 743 3830 An NGO situated in East London that focuses on “deepening participatory democracy and good local governance, community development and alternative settlement development approaches”.
  • Afristar Foundation Tel: 021 790 9744 A Permaculture NGO working for the “development of sustainable models for ecological human settlement and local economic development”
  • AgriPlanner – see “South African Institute for Entrepreneurship” later in this list
  • Calabash Trust Involvement includes permaculture design, community schools and township tours
  • Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) Dr Mathetha Mokonyama, Dr Sibusisiwe Makhanya, Quintin van Heerden Experts on urban planning. Read the Liedtke article (heading 6)
  • Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA) Projects include permaculture food gardens, bamboo projects and organic farms
  • Food Gardens Foundation Tel: 011 342 4440
  • Green Book Online tool which supports municipal planning and “climate resilient settlements”
  • GroundWorks Urban gardens is an area of expertise
  • Integrated Development Expertise (INDEX) Tel: 012 346 5307
  • Joburg City’s urban farming programme is divided into three strategic pillars which are to provide training to the farmers, provide access to market and to mentor the farmers. The Department of Social Development, leading the City’s pro-poor development strategy, works in partnership with stakeholders such as United Way South Africa (UWSA), is currently implementing an urban agriculture programme that is aimed at building the capacity of 300 farmers. See
  • Johannesburg Inner City Partnership The role of the JICP is “to facilitate growth and transformation for all Inner City stakeholders through collaboration between City of Johannesburg (COJ), other spheres of government and the private sector”.
  • Maximum Group
  • Find the “Urban Agriculture” page on the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality website, The programme operates under the Economic Development Tourism And Agriculture: Urban Agriculture Sub-Directorate.
  • No.Land Farming
  • NuLeaf Planning & Environmental Tel: 012 753 5792 Participates “on a landscape and environmental level in the development of Integrated Urban Design Framework and other types of Strategic Development Plans”
  • Oranjezicht City Farm Tel: 083 508 1066 Produce, school outings and other programmes are offered by this Cape Town urban farm
  • PEDI Urban Agriculture Academy Tel: 021 371 9824
  • Rooftop Roots Tel: 010 595 2370
  • SEED Rocklands Urban Abundance Centre Tel: 021 391 5316 “awakening the potential of our unemployed township youth”
  • Siyakhana Initiative for Ecological Health and Food Security Tel: 082 492 4768 Siyakhana undertakes research related to food, nutrition, urban agriculture, and more. It operates one of Johannesburg’s most prominent and important urban permaculture demonstration sites
  • Soil for Life Tel: 021 794 4982 A non-profit organisation (NPO) based in Cape Town that helps people learn to grow healthy, organic food using simple, low-cost, environmentally-friendly methods.
  • South African Cities Network (SACN) The South African Cities Network (SACN) “is an established network of South African cities and partners that encourages the exchange of information, experience and best practices on urban development and city management”.
  • South African Cities Urban Safety Reference Group
  • South African Institute for Entrepreneurship (SAIE) Tel: 021 447 2023 The SAIE develops business skills, uncovers entrepreneurship qualities and ensures sustainable economic development and wealth creation.
  • South African Planning Institute
  • Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) Tel: 021 702 3622 SEA promotes equitable, low carbon, clean energy development in urban South Africa and Africa.
  • Terra Madre SA Tel: 082 602 2882 Edible gardens for homes, communities projects and business based on Permaculture principles.
  • Tip Trans AgriLiving Tel: 079 561 3589 Combining food growing operations with residential units …
  • Ukuvuna Urban Farming Tel: 011 805 7768
  • Umhlaba Consulting Group (Pty) Ltd Tel: 043 721 1554
  • United Way South Africa (UWSA) Tel: 011 806 5890
  • University of Cape Town Tel: 021 650 5903
  • University of the Free State (UFS) (i) Department of Agricultural economics (ii) Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (iii) Centre for Environmental Management Town and regional planning are included in the centre’s academic offering
  • University of South Africa (UNISA) The College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences (CAES) runs urban agriculture programmes through its Community engagement (CE) projects. Find the CAES pages under “Colleges”at
  • Urban Farm Aquaponics Tel: 082 551 0016
  • Urban Harvest Edible Gardens Tel: 021 300 1766
  • Urban-Econ Development Consultants Tel: 012 342 8686
  • Urban Farmers South Africa Tel: 079 758 4703
  • Urban Harvest Tel: 021 300 1766  “Specialists in custom designing & installing beautiful and productive food-scapes on rooftops, balconies, walls and in gardens in all contexts”.
  • Western Cape Government Farmer Support and Development Tel: 021 808 7674 AdriaanC [at]
  • Wild Serve Tel: 0861 945 3543 Urban Biodiversity stewards

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.


Urban farming – some articles


General urbanisation – some articles


International – urban agriculture


International – general urbanisation

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