Understanding the Urban: The Role of Open Space Agriculture in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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Title: Understanding the Urban: The Role of Open Space Agriculture in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Author: McLees, Leslie
Abstract: There is a fundamental shift in the way people are living on the planet. Over half of the world's population now lives in cities, yet many of these cities continue to struggle to provide basic services, infrastructure and food security for the billions of people who live in cities. Despite decades of intervention by international and national development agencies, cities in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly framed in apocalyptic and dystopian terms, serving as a warning of the dangers of overurbanization while being criticized for their lack of urban development. This contradictory framing poses the question of how a city and the people who live there actually survive. Building on emerging work in critical urban studies, this research examines how narrow definitions of what counts as urban hinder the understanding of cities in different regional contexts and limit our imaginations of how people survive and thrive in the face of the challenges that cities provide. To examine the idea of what is urban in the context of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I use the lens of urban open space farms, large lots of land in the built-up environment of the city used for farming, to explore what makes farming urban, how the practice of farming contributes to and is embedded within urban systems, and how farms and farmers can illuminate the material practices and ephemeral experiences that constitute the reality of people's daily life in cities. I employ a methodology based on interviews, photo voice, mental mapping, and observation over time to explore the dynamics of farms as spaces and farmers as agents in constructing these spaces over time. The purpose is to contribute to a definition of the urban that moves past associations with capitalism and industrialization as the defining processes of the city towards one more inclusive of the way people experience these spaces, how they remake them to fit the city, and what this means for interventions that focus on the marginalization of people and the ways that cities fail, rather than how they actually work.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/12364
Date: 2012

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