According to data from the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the global population is projected to rise to 10 billion by 2050 and approximately 70% of them will live in urban areas. This means that massive agricultural land will be lost to rapid urbanization and this means more mouths to feed with less land. In a previous article I have written on the need to integrate food systems into urban planning ( https://agriculturefirstblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/24/integrate-food-systems-in-urban-planning/ ). One way of implementing this is encouraging rooftop farming.
Rooftop farming is the cultivation of crops (mainly vegetables, fruits and herbs) on the top of buildings in urban areas or cities. The buildings could be of any kind from hospitals, schools/ universities, houses or restaurants.
There are various benefits of rooftop farming. First, it eases accessibility to healthy and nutritious food and supplements food produced in rural areas. The fact that the food has a shorter food chain means its fresh and tastier compared to food crops sourced from rural areas.In addition, it contributes to sustainable agrifood system by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy used during storage and transport.
According to numerous studies, rooftop farming has psychological benefits. Exposure to nature and vegetation inform of crops reduces depression, stress and impulsive decision making thus contributing to a healthy population. A rooftop farm in an office complex would thus be a great idea for employees to unwind and relax.
Rooftop farms also contribute to cleaner cities by as plants absorb carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the air. They also cool buildings using the ‘heat island effect’ by absorbing the heat unlike bare rooftops which absorb and then radiate heat back to the atmosphere.
In addition rooftop farms help in storm water management and control flooding. They are known to absorb 60-100% of rainwater and release it slowly over time. They also create employment opportunities to landscape designers, rooftop farms contractors.
With numerous hazardous effects on conventional farming due to sewer contaminated water in cities such as Nairobi, rooftop farming offers a great alternative. The city county government could encourage and regulate such innovative farming techniques to discourage cultivation of food crops on contaminated city soils and water which pose serious health risks to the human population. And with the rise of cancer and other diseases based on dietary habits, why not grow your vegetables on your roof or balcony?
However, there are challenges that accompany rooftop farming and need to be addressed. The rooftops of the structures must be strong enough to bear the weight of the soil which has to be transported in the first place. Fortunately, hydroponics and aquaponics come in handy which is growing crops with water and nutrients only (without soil) thus making it lighter. One might also need to use nets to prevent birds and monkeys from harvesting the products on your behalf.