'Green' cities & urban agriculture

In the past 10 years we see a tremendous increase in urban agriculture, permaculture, growing vegetables on rooftops, urban gardening, etc. Why is that? There is a combination of factors, of course.....

The following three factors have proven to be of big influence:

One is that people do not trust  factory produced food any more, so they refer to growing food themselves or directly support farmers to grow food (community supported agroculture, csa). Another important drive in big urban centres is the lack of (access to) food.  Thirdly there is a growing number of cities and regions around the world that  devise policies to build food security for their inhabitants.  They promote sustainable, resilient food systems. The movement has gained pace since the launch of the City Region Food Systems concept at CFS 41 (2014) and the signature of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact by 118 cities in 2015.

A rapid increase in urban poverty and urban food insecurity takes place both in developing and developed countries. By 2020 the developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America will be home to some 75% of all urban dwellers. It is expected that by 2020, 85% of the poor in Latin America, and about 40-45% of the poor in Africa and Asia will be concentrated in towns and cities. Read more about urban agriculture 

Starting Urban Agriculture

The very first attempts into urban agriculture were Community Gardens, started in Japan (1970) and Chile by women who didn't trust the food from the markets. This concept developed into CSA's, Community Supported Agriculture, which took a big flight in the USA. Since 2010 we see an increase of CSA's in Europe as well, partly because of inspiring activities of Farmer John (the dramatic failure of Farmer John's conventional farming operation and its resurrection into a thriving, organic Community Supported Agriculture farm) and Joel Salatin, How To Quit Your Job And Start Farming.   

Transition Towns is a community based movement that started in England in 2006 as a reaction to Peak Oil (the prospect of dwindling oil reserves and therefore the need to transition to another lifestyle). Transition Towns and villages take responsibility for their own, regionally, responsibly and sustainably produced food. Want to know if you can join?  

Toronto (Canada) was the first city to establish a Food Policy Council (1991) to ensure access to healthy, affordable, sustainable and culturally acceptable food. See their food strategy. The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact is the first international protocol on sustainable urban food policies. It was launched in Milan in 2015 and has been signed by 159 cities so far. The gathering of mayors and city officials is an opportunity for signatory cities to exchange ideas and share their progress in meeting the goals of the Pact.“It is in the hands of the mayors to lay the ground for participation of every city to meet this global challenge, and the cities have to share their good practices with other cities” says Joan Ribó, Mayor of Valencia. He says “cities are the essence of civilization. The history of the evolution of societies is full of collaborative processes. Only by working together we will make a difference”.

Th FAO says: In recent years, cities have taken more responsibility for consumption, taking decisions on how to feed themselves and how to govern food-rated issues. There is still a long way to go for many cities in achieving food security,  nutrition and in promoting sustainability. They are trying to create balance and alignment for what is going on in the rural areas around them, both in the hinterlands and in the broader national and global landscape.

The 2017 AESOP conference stated that "Sustainable food planning is a thriving transdisciplinary research and policy field, bringing together policy makers, academics, and practitioners across the globe. Food charters, food strategies and food policy councils have multiplied, ‘alternative food networks’ have gained significant and growing shares of the food market and new forms of localisation of food production, including urban agriculture, are gaining ground and becoming central components of new food policy strategies. But not sufficiently fast yet. 

In the Netherlands, the AMS institute is actively promoting (research into) urban food systems. They have selected Almere and Flevoland (close to Amsterdam and the Randstad) as the green belt where they can research food systems within a living lab.  

A growing network on food souvereignty and fair and sustainable regional food production in the Netherlands, VOEDSEL ANDERS (Food Differently) adresses and promotes the existing experience with and experiential knowledge of urban and regional food systems. Read their Manifest. In Africa we find AFSA as te network of organistaions that promote food sovereignty and support of smallholder farming.

Want to know more?

- An interesting inventory of what is going on can be found here, written by Tjitske Anna Zwart at Wageningen UR. 

- A Farm for the Future: a film (45 min) about permaculture farming without fossil fuel