Urban agriculture (UA) has emerged as a vital solution to addressing food needs of the growing urban population in the Global South, including Nigeria. However, the landscape of UA in Nigeria is fraught with legal and institutional challenges that hinder its official recognition for sustainable development.
A glaring issue is the absence of official recognition for UA in legal and sustainable development frameworks, as highlighted by Olalekan (2019). This lack of acknowledgment casts a shadow over the potential benefits and contributions of UA to food security and urban resilience. Moreover, complexities in zoning laws and regulations add another layer of challenge, as reported earlier by FarmingFarmersFarms in 2023. The intricacies of zoning laws create hurdles for urban farmers, impacting the spatial distribution of UA and complicating matters related to city expansion and agricultural land loss.
Examining the legal framework and agricultural policy in Nigeria reveals more contending issues. Zoning laws play a crucial role, but also pose challenges in the spatial distribution of urban agriculture. Land ownership emerges as a critical factor influencing food security, affecting both rural and urban farming households. Furthermore, environmental regulations, vital for sustainable urban agriculture and climate change adaptation, are often overlooked or inadequately enforced. Also, policy reforms, as witnessed in Nigeria, have a profound impact on the trajectory of urban agriculture. Love (2020) highlights the transformative power of policy decisions, but there remains a need for policies that explicitly address the unique challenges faced by urban farmers.
The existing agricultural development projects, such as the Green Revolution Programme (GRP) and Agricultural Development Project (ADP), seem to exhibit a bias towards large-scale, conventional agriculture, neglecting the needs of small-scale urban farmers practicing innovative techniques. Similarly, River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) face criticism for centralised water management, posing challenges in accessing water resources crucial for urban agriculture. Moreover, the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), National Fadama Development Project (NFDP), National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), and Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA); all encounter limitations in adequately addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by urban farmers.
The focus on large-scale commercial agriculture in these frameworks may undermine the importance of small-scale and decentralised urban agriculture, hindering its growth. In conclusion, navigating the legal and institutional challenges of urban agriculture in Nigeria requires a comprehensive approach. Addressing issues related to the recognition, zoning, land ownership, environmental regulations, and policy reforms is crucial to fostering a sustainable and inclusive urban agriculture sector. Collaborative efforts between policymakers, urban planners, and farmers are imperative to overcoming these challenges and unlock the full potentials of urban agriculture in Nigeria.