Tatu City pioneers urban agroforestry farm in Kenya

Tatu City has partnered with agroforestry farming pioneer ForestFoods to grow carbon-neutral organic produce for the new industrial center home to 75 leading businesses in Kenya.

ForestFoods’ first farm at the 5,000-acre mixed-use Special Economic Zone (SEZ) integrates plants and forestry seeking to promote a healthier, sustainable, clean food supply that contributes to reforestation, climate change mitigation, and restoration of the ecosystem.

“Our farm in Tatu City is a remarkable example of how modern cities can embrace sustainable agriculture to enhance their environment, economy, and quality of life,” said Sven Verwiel, Managing Director of ForestFoods.

Addressing Environmental Challenges

“Our mission is to transform the agricultural landscape in East Africa and beyond while addressing food insecurity and environmental challenges,” added Verwiel.

Syntropic agroforestry imitates ecological succession, which is nature’s way of restoring land from barren to fertile. It achieves this by growing a diverse range of fruits, nuts, vegetables, timber, and livestock in the same production area.

This process promotes biodiversity, which is crucial for maintaining soil quality and producing nutritious food, preserving and rebuilding ecosystems often destroyed by other farming methods.

Nearly 10,000 people currently work at over 75 businesses in Tatu City. Some of the companies include Dormans, Copia, Cooper K-Brands, Grit Real Estate Income Group, and Twiga Foods.

Also in Tatu City is Freight Forwarders Solutions company, Friendship Group, Davis & Shirtliff, Kenya Wine Agencies Limited, and Roast by Carnivore.

Also set within the mixed-use SEZ are Crawford International School and Nova Pioneer schools which educate over 3,500 students daily. About 4,000 people live in Unity Homes apartments and the Kijani Ridge premier neighbourhood, which are part of the city.

“ForestFoods’ partnership with Tatu City aligns perfectly with our vision of harmonious coexistence between sustainable urban development and nature,” said Perminas Marisi, Head of City Management at Tatu City. “We are delighted that residents, schools, and businesses in Tatu City and the region can now access nutrient-dense and beyond-organic farm produce at their doorstep.”

Globally, the relentless march of urbanization is transforming cities into concrete jungles where temperatures often soar higher than in their rural surroundings. This unwelcome phenomenon, known as the ‘urban heat island (UHI) effect,’ has been driving up temperatures in cities by approximately 0.5–3.0°C since 1940.

Electricity to cool down urban buildings

The consequences of this rise in temperature are far-reaching, with a corresponding surge in electricity demand by 2–4 percent for each 1°C increase. In fact, the total electricity demand required to cool down urban buildings is estimated to account for 5–10 percent of total urban electricity consumption.

However, amidst this sweltering urban landscape, trees are emerging as indispensable heroes, offering a multitude of benefits that extend beyond mere shade. Studies show that trees combat the UHI effect by reducing both urban land surface temperatures (up to 12°C) and air temperatures (up to 8°C).

This cooling effect is not only a relief to residents but also a practical energy-saving measure. Moreover, trees improve the air quality by mitigating pollution and reducing CO2 emissions originating from energy sources used for cooling, such as air conditioners.

A single tree, through its strategic positioning, can outperform the cooling effect of two air conditioning units. Trees serve as natural sun blockers, preventing city surfaces from absorbing excess heat while cooling the air through a process called transpiration.

Transpiration involves the release of moisture into the atmosphere as trees draw up water from the ground, effectively lowering air temperatures and creating a more comfortable environment.

Further, trees are not just for aesthetics as they serve as a critical line of defense against heat-related stress and premature deaths during periods of high temperatures and heat waves.

As climate change exacerbates the frequency and intensity of such events, the role of trees becomes increasingly vital. The World Health Organization has recorded alarming statistics, with more than 166,000 heatwave-related deaths occurring from 1998 to 2017—a number that is expected to rise due to the intensifying effects of climate change.

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