Brock Bersaglio is one of our interns currently based in Dar es Salaam. For 6 months he’ll be working on urban agriculture (and being a newlywed! )
It was a few short days before my wife and I got married that I received a phone call from Eric Brown, Youth-Led Development Officer at Sustainable Cities International, offering me the position of Urban Agriculture Project Officer in Dar es Salaam. I had been loading some materials into a pick-up truck outside my (then soon-to-be) in-laws house in Surrey, British Columbia when my mobile phone rang. I happily accepted the position before rushing inside to inform my wife that the man she was marrying was no longer unemployed!
Those few days went by, my wife and I had our wedding, I underwent surgery to remove all four of my wisdom teeth, and one week later (with bleeding gums and swollen cheeks) I boarded a plane bound for Dar es Salaam. (My wife joined me some three weeks after I arrived… and I didn’t bleed all that much on the plane.)
The day following my arrival, I began as Urban Agriculture Project Officer. In truth, the features of my job are significantly different than I had anticipated. Somehow, I had imagined myself toiling in fields alongside urban farmers, or conducting workshops in rusty-tin roofed buildings (which did occur on one occasion). Instead, I spend the majority of my time toiling at my desk or in municipal offices (or on the phone with municipal officers). However, this is not disappointing. Let me explain:
The focal point of the urban agriculture project in Dar es Salaam is the legitimization component. A new Master Plan for the City of Dar es Salaam is currently being produced by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development (MLHHSD). There is a provision for urban agriculture under the ‘land reform’ sub-component of the plan. This means that each of Dar es Salaam’s three municipal councils (Ilala, Kinondoni and Temeke) have been tasked with developing Strategic Plans on Urban Agriculture. These plans are to include strategies for identifying and demarcating specific land zones for the purpose of making urban agriculture a recognized legal activity, as well as strategies for environmental assessment and land access and tenure arrangements for farmers.
What’s so important about having urban agriculture included in the new Master Plan? It means that urban farmers, who have traditionally suffered due to limited access to land and limited/non-existent tenure arrangements, no longer have to fear losing their land to developers. It also means that they will qualify for assistance (i.e. funding/sponsorship) through local and national-level ministries. Furthermore, it provides Dar es Salaam with the unique opportunity to act as a catalyst for sustainable urban development not just within Tanzania or the global South, but at a global scale. For these reasons, I do not mind toiling at my desk instead of in fields. The legitimization of urban agriculture in Dar es Salaam is a very exciting process with lasting policy implications that will benefit both urban farmers and the status of urban farming.