In this post I will focus on Urban Agriculture in industrialised cities and explain what urban agriculture is and why we need to be aware of it in the planning process. In the end I will give some different examples of case studies.
With a growing population on our planet, especially in the cities (WHO 2016) there is an increased demand for food and this food need to be cultured somewhere. Urban agriculture is one way to grow food locally in our cities.
What is Urban Agriculture (UA)?
UA might have a different approach depending on its geographical context. In the developing countries UA is an important means of food security and an income source for the urban poor (Boakye 2008:2). However, in the industrialised countries UA have a different meaning. UA is becoming increasingly popular where people grow their crops in allotments or community gardens, as a hobby (Bowden 2005:28).
The most common definition of UA is:
Urban Agriculture is an industry located within (intraurban) or on the fringe (periurban) of a town, a city or a metropolis, which grows or raises, processes and distributes a diversity of food and non-food products, (re-)using largely human and material resources, products and services found in and around that urban area, and in turn supplying human and material resources, products and services largely to that urban area (Garnett 2000:10).
This does not mean UA is the same as rural agriculture with big open fields that needs to be implemented within the cities. UA can take place anywhere pretty much. It can be located on rooftops, even the facade of the buildings, indoors and outdoors, on private and public land and it can be permeant or temporary (Weissman 2011:436). What makes this possible in our cities is that UA often is a small-scale production (Weissman 2011:438). It doesn’t require much land to occur, just innovative ideas and interest from local people/organizations.
Why UA in our cities?
The planning system has been bad integrated with the food system (Nichol 2003:410). Agriculture has often been neglected by the planning profession as cities and agriculture have been seen as adversaries. But that has changed. During previous years planners and researchers have recognised the importance of supporting urban farming regarding food production in our cities (Perrin 2013:22). National governments and international organizations support UA by establishing programs and use urban planning as a means to support the production of food (Weissman 2011:411). All together this has increased the support for local initiatives regarding UA.
The main reasons why UA have become popular in our dense cities is the social and ecological benefits that comes from it. The social aspects are many. For example, in some municipalities UA is being used as a means to increase the social integration among the more weaker groups in the society such as immigrants, elderly, prisoners and hospital patients. It is also used as a place for recreation and a tool for education. All together it improves the community health (Weissman 2011:438).
These urban food growing projects that pop up around the cities work as a meeting place, for everyone. It creates a feeling of identity and affinity with the neighbourhood and your neighbours, creating a sense of “I can”. When people feel they are a part of the society it also gets unique and valuable to them. This creates a social responsibility (Viljoen 2005:57).
There is also a connection between illness such as stress and the lack of green space. Green space has a positive effect on people and can have a curative effect as a recreation area. Hence why UA can be a valuable investment for the socio-economic climate in the city (Maas 2006: 587).
UA means more green space in our cities. It can be used as a means to reduce the ecological footprint of the city (more food is being produced locally which means less transportation) (Viljoen 2005:57). It can take care of organic waste from households. More green space in the cities also improve the flora and fauna, making the concrete city into a greener home for insects and smaller animals (Weissman 2011:438).
Innovative urban greenhouses
The Swedish company SWECO have come up with an innovative spherical urban greenhouse, called “The Plantagon Greenhouse” that fits today´s modern cities. It allows us to grow food on a bigger scale in the cities while using less space to grow more crops (SWECO 2011:5). As much as 3 times more can be produced (SWECO 2011:13). A greenhouse will allow culture anytime anywhere.
Reducing crime in New York
In NYC UA community gardens have been used in high crime areas as rehabilitation to prevent criminal activities such as selling drugs (Viljoen 2005: 57).
Doncaster in the UK reduced vandalism
In the city of Doncaster a high amount of vandalism were reported. The city choose to set aside land for gardening and other community activities and as a result the vandalism decreased (Viljoen 2005: 57).
This post was about to show the importance of UA in our cities and the benefits it can bring. From a social perspective it can be used to integrate different groups of people and at the same time give valuable green space to the city that improves its flora and fauna.
Tobias Engelin Edvinsson
Boakye, S. (2008). Sustaining urban farming: Explaining why farmers make investment in the absence of secure tenure with new evidence from Ghana. (Available from: http://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/events-documents/2342.pdf)
Bowden, R. (2005). Hållbar Utveckling: Städerna, Liber, Stockholm
Garnett, T. (2000). Urban agriculture in London: rethinking our food economy”. In Bakker et al (eds.), Growing Cities, Growing Food: Urban Agriculture on the Policy Agenda, DSE (Available from: http://www.ruaf.org/publications/growing-cities-growing-food-urban-agriculture-policy-agenda)
Maas, J. (2006) Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation?, J Epidemiol Community Health, vol. 60, 587-592.
Nichol, L. (2003). Local food production: some implications for planning, Planning Theory & Practice, 4: 4, 409-427
Perrin, C. (2013). Regulation of Farmland Conversion on the Urban Fringe: From Land-Use Planning to Food Strategies. Insight into Two Case Studies in Provence and Tuscany, International Planning Studies, 18:1, 21-36.
SWECO. (2011). The PlanTagon greenhouse. (Available from: http://www.hagstromreport.com/assets/111611_plantagon.pdf)
Viljoen, A. (2005), Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes: Designing Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Cities, Routledge, London.
Weissman, E. (2011). Urban Agriculture. In Cohen, N. Green Cities : An A-to-Z Guide. SAGE Publishing, 435-441.
WHO. (2016). Global Health Observatory (GHO) data. (Online: http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/)
Front cover image: http://plantagon.com/about/why-urban-agriculture
Picture in the text: http://www.sweco.se/sv/sweden/om-sweco/Inspiration/Vaxthus-for-storstaden-/