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Urban and peri-urban agriculture under rapid urban growth – towards a spatiotemporal understanding of urban and peri-urban agriculture

Urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) operates in an ambiguous relation to rapid urban growth: On the one hand, urban expansion and land use change constrain urban and peri-urban farmers’ access to land and other resources; on the other hand, population growth and changing food consumption patterns offer new market opportunities for UPA. Between these poles, we analyse the spatiotemporal dynamics of market-oriented UPA and farmer´s responses to changing socio-spatial circumstances in two rapidly growing Kenyan cities: Nyeri and Nakuru. We use a mixed-methods approach combining geospatial analysis with quantitative and qualitative interviews, to better understand urban-growth related dynamics within UPA. In particular, we look for socio-economic and spatial factors to explain the juxtaposition of replacement, persistence, and intensification of UPA in the Global South.


Rapid urbanization and the transformation of urban food systems pose new opportunities and challenges for urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA). Often denoted as a livelihood strategy of the poor, most UPA is based on micro-production for subsistence, semi-subsistence and direct local marketing, which takes place in informal or even illegal settings on vacant or marginal land. Under rapid urban growth, UPA is often re-placed by activities with higher economic rents and shifts to less favourable locations. However, unlike these well-known narratives, many Sub-Saharan African cities apparently are experiencing a proliferation of market-oriented, entrepreneurial forms of UPA, which not only persist but even economically thrive under urban growth revealing a kind of von Thünen-like pattern.

One explanation for the proliferation of market-oriented UPA is seen in the increasing and changing ur-ban demand for perishable, high-value agricultural products (e.g. meat, dairy goods, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables) induced by rapid urbanization and increasing income levels as well as changing lifestyles and consumption patterns. Additionally, on the supply side, a growing number of urban groceries, food stalls and supermarkets require increasing volumes of fresh and quality supply. While in industrialized countries this supply is usually provided through interregional or even global value chains, this is seldom the case for perishable high-value agricultural products in Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to high logistic and transportation limitations (e.g. bad road conditions, limited storage and cooling facilities, longer and complex supply chain systems scarcely have been established in countries like Kenya. Therefore, domestic agri-food value chains seem to provide new niche opportunities for urban and peri-urban. In our study we follow this understanding of market-oriented UPA occupying a (niche) market for perishable high-value agricultural products, which in turn facilitates the persistence, and intensification of UPA. We expect that different socio-economic and spatial factors determine whether urban and peri-urban farmer abandon or intensify/expand their farm business. Therefore, the main objectives of the study are to analyse and explain spatiotemporal dynamics of UPA under rapid urban growth.

We use a mixed-methods approach combining geospatial analysis of high-resolution satellite images (Rapid Eye) with quantitative farm survey data and qualitative interviews, to better understand urban-growth related dynamics within UPA.

Project Head: Prof. Dr. Peter Dannenberg & Dr Alexander Follmann
Investigators: Dr Alexander Follmann & Maximilian Willkomm (MSc)
International partners: Prof. Dr. Gilbert Nduru (Karatina University), Prof. Dr. George Owour (Egerton University)
Funding: Haushaltsmittel (2015-2021)


Selection of recent papers:

Willkomm, M., Follmann, A., Dannenberg, P., 2020. Between Replacement and Intensification: Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Different Land Use Types of Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture under Rapid Urban Growth in Nakuru, Kenya. The Professional Geographer, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2020.1835500

Willkomm, M., Follmann, A. & Dannenberg, P. (2019). Rule-based, hierarchical land use and land cover classification of urban and peri-urban agriculture in data-poor regions with RapidEye satellite imagery: a case study of Nakuru, Kenya. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, 13(1).doi: 0.1117/1.JRS.13.016517.

Opondo, F. A., Dannenberg, P. & Willkomm, M. (2017). Characterization of the levels of cassava commercialization among smallholder farmers in Kenya: A multinomial regression approach. African Journal of Agricultural Research, 12(41), 3024-3036. doi: 10.5897/AJAR2017.12634.

Willkomm, M., Vierneisel, B. & Dannenberg, P. (2016). Land use change dynamics in the Mt. Kenya region—a remotely sensed analysis using RapidEye satellite images. Zentralblatt für Geologie und Paläontologie, 1(1), 23-40. doi: 10.1127/zgpI/2016/0023-0040.