On the green banks of the Niger River in downtown Bamako alongside heavily guarded foreign hotels, a group of urban farmers busily weed and water vegetables on some of Mali’s prime real-estate.
The “guerrilla growers” do not own the land they’re cultivating but property rules aren’t stopping them from trying to feed themselves in one of the world’s poorest countries.
In North America and Europe, “guerrilla gardening” usually means an act of political protest against industrialized food production or a lack of green space. But in Bamako and across Africa the growing trend for urban gardens is about survival.
Urban farming is expanding quickly all around Africa. Over a million people in Lagos, a fifth of the population in Nigeria’s biggest city, grow urban gardens. About 50% of urban families in Cameroon, 33% in Malawi, and 25% in Ghana grow gardens like these.
In Kibera, the largest slum in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, 11,000 residents grow enough vegetables for themselves–and pay their rent–via “sack gardens”. [photo credit: Alfousseni Sidibe]