“UPA produces around one-fifth of world’s food, with 800 million people involved in it. Our project aims at giving decision-makers more elements to harness this potential,” Yingyong Paisooksantivatana, the associate dean of the agriculture faculty at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, told IRIN.
The V-GIS (vegetable-GIS, or “veggies”,) project is a computerized information system that analyses data gathered on the ground and via satellite about crop species, production, land surface and workforce, launched in April 2012 by Kasetsart University and the German University of Freiburg, with funding from the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
Researchers, urban planners and policymakers can access the information for free, said David Oberhuber, the GIZ country director in Thailand.
“The cultivation of fruits and vegetables inside Greater Bangkok is necessary for many inhabitants but very little is known about it,” said Narin Senapa, a research and training assistant at the Taiwan-based NGO, AVRDC-The World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC), previously known as Asian Vegetable Research Development Centre, which is participating in the project.
UPA is especially important to the less favoured section of the urban population, those without formal employment or a steady income, wrote Daniel Hoornweg, an urban development specialist from the World Bank, in a recent report.
The UN Population Division notes that more than half of world’s people now live in urban settings, and around one-third - some one billion people - live in slums. By 2020, an estimated 85 percent of the poor in Central and South America, and up to 45 percent of those in Africa and Asia will be concentrated in urban areas.
GIS has been used to study UPA over the last decade in Chile, China, Portugal and Vietnam, among other countries.
Rapid urbanization in developing countries has been accompanied by a sharp increase in urban food insecurity. Scientists and policymakers have increasingly turned to fruits and vegetables - a major portion of UPA crops - to get communities through lean times in creative ways.
Alma Linda Abubakar, a programme development officer at the Asia office of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Bangkok, said developing urban agriculture is crucial, given demographic trends.