Urban Agriculture and Peri-Urban Agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around (peri-urban), a village, town or city.
Urban farming is generally practiced for income-earning or food-producing activities though in some communities the main impetus is recreation and relaxation. Urban agriculture contributes to food security and food safety in two ways: first, it increases the amount of food available to people living in cities, and, second, it allows fresh vegetables and fruits and meat products to be made available to urban consumers. A common and efficient form of urban agriculture is the biointensive method. Because urban agriculture promotes energy-saving local food production, urban and peri-urban agriculture are generally seen as sustainable practices.
The recognition of environmental degradation within cities through the relocation of resources to serve urban populations has inspired the implementation of different schemes of urban agriculture across the developed and developing world. From historic models such as Machu Picchu to designs for new productive urban farms, the idea of locating agriculture in the city takes on many characteristics.
“ [A]n industry that produces, processes and markets food and fuel, largely in response to the daily demand of consumers within a town, city, or metropolis, on land and water dispersed throughout the urban and peri-urban area, applying intensive production methods, using and reusing natural resources and urban wastes to yield a diversity of crops and livestock.”
The definition of urban agriculture as an industry that responds to the nutritional demands of a city, from within that city, with the use and reuse of that city’s resources while acknowledging economic and resource use does not recocile aspects of regional health, food security, and application of grassroots organizations.
(This definition is based on the work of Luc Mougeot of the International Development Research Centre and used in technical and training publications by UN-HABITAT’s Urban Management Programme , FAO’s Special Programme for Food Security, and international agricultural research centres, such as CIRAD.)
“Urban agriculture is a complex system encompassing a spectrum of interests, from a traditional core of activities associated with the production, processing, marketing, distribution, and consumption, to a multiplicity of other benefits and services that are less widely acknowledged and documented. These include recreation and leisure; economic vitality and business entrepreneurship, individual health and well-being; community health and well being; landscape beautification; and environmental restoration and remediation.”Modern planning and design initiatives are more responsive to this model of urban agriculture because it fits within the current scope of sustainable design. The definition allows for a multitude of interpretations across cultures and time. Frequently it is tied to policy deciisons to build sustainable cities.
“all persons in a community having access to culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate food through local, non-emergency sources at all times.”
“Community and residential gardening, as well as small-scale farming, save household food dollars. They promote nutrition and free cash for non-garden foods and other items”This allows families to generate larger incomes selling to local grocers or to local outdoor markets, while supplying their household with proper nutrition of fresh and nutritional produce.
Localized food production in urban and peri-urban areas contributes to local economies by creating jobs and producing valuable products. Some researchers indicate that unemployed populations in large cities and suburban towns would decrease if put to work by local food movements. Schools have foreseen the asset of local food production and are beginning to incorporate agricultural sections in their curricula and present it as a career opportunity. Urban agricultural projects are beginning to open a new labor market in areas that have been negatively affected by industrial outsourcing of jobs.
To facilitate food production, cities have established community-based farming projects. Some projects have collectively-tended community farms on common land, much like that of eighteenth-century Boston Common. One such community farm is the Collingwood Children's Farm in Melbourne, Australia. Other community garden projects use the allotment garden model, in which gardeners care for individual plots in a larger gardening area, often sharing a tool shed and other amenities. Seattle's P-Patch gardens use this model, as did the South Central Farm in Los Angeles. Independent urban gardeners also grow food in individual yards and on roofs. Roof gardens allow for urban dwellers to maintain green spaces in the city without having to set aside a tract of undeveloped land. There are a growing number of projects worldwide that seek to enable cities to become 'continuous productive landscapes' through the networked cultivation of vacant urban land and temporary or permanent 'kitchen gardens'.
Food processing on a community level has been accommodated by centralizing resources in community tool sheds and processing facilities for farmers to share. The Garden Resource Program Collaborative based in Detroit has cluster tool banks. Different areas of the city have toolbanks where resources like tools, compost, mulch, tomato stakes, seeds, and education can be shared and distributed with the gardeners in that cluster. Detroit's Garden Resource Program Collaborative also strengthens their gardening community by providing to their members transplants; education on gardening, policy, and food issues; and by building connectivity between gardeners through workgroups, potlucks, tours, field trips, and cluster workdays.
Farmers' markets, such as the Farmers' Market in Los Angeles, provide a common land where farmers can sell their product to consumers. Large cities tend to open their farmers markets on the weekends and one day in the middle of the week. For example, the farmers' market of Rue Richard Lenoir in Paris, France, is open on Sundays and Thursdays. However, to create a consumer dependency on urban agriculture and to introduce local food production as a sustainable career for farmers, markets would have to be open regularly. For example, the Los Angeles Farmers' Market is open seven days a week and has linked several local grocers together to provide different food products. The market’s central location in downtown Los Angeles provides the perfect interaction for a diverse group of sellers to access their consumers.
City farm at Rosary High School, Dockyard Road Mumbai:
The main objectives of this pilot project were to promote economic support for street children, beautify the city landscape, supply locally produced organic food to urban dwellers (mainly those residing in slums), and to manage organic waste in a sustainable city. The project was conducted in the Rosary School, in Mumbai, with the participation of street children during 2004. A city farm was created in a terrace area of 400 sq ft. The participants were trained in urban farming techniques. The farm produced vegetables, fruits, and flowers. The idea was spread the concept of city farm to other schools in the city.
Mumbai Port Trust (MBPT):
The central kitchen distributes food to approximately 3,000 employees daily, generating important amounts of organic disposal. A terrace garden created by the staff recycles ninety percent of this waste in the production of vegetables and fruits. Preeti Patil, who is the catering officer at the MBPT explains the purpose of the enterprise:
“Mumbai Port Trust has developed an organic farm on the terrace of its central kitchen, which is an area of approximately 3,000 sq ft. The activity of city farming was started initially to dispose of kitchen organic waste in an ecofriendly way. Staff members, after their daily work in the kitchen, tend the garden, which has about 450 plants.”
While the goals of the NGO are important in a global context, the community goals are being met through the work of forming the urban gardens themselves. In this sense the creation, implementation, and maintenance of urban gardens is highly determined by the desires of the communities involved. However, the criteria by which TEI measured their success illustrates the scope of benefits to a community which practices urban agriculture. TEI’s success indicators were:
Evan D.J. Fraser wrote in the article Urban Ecology in Bangkok Thailand that although the project was initiated to serve the environmental needs of the city it quickly illustrated the positive side effects of urban agriculture.
“In many ways, the urban environment became a lens through which communities re-evaluated their own relationship with the city, the impact of urbanization in a global context, and how small groups can exert some control over the shape of their neighbourhoods.”
Village Structure, Methods, and New Advancements
• The city farms are located about 10 km from city center in a two-tier system. The first tier approached from city center produces perishable items. Located just outside these farms, hardier vegetables are grown such as potatoes, carrots, and onions. This system allows produce to be sold in city markets just a few short hours after picking.
• Another impressive method used within Chinese agriculture and aquaculture practice is the mulberry-dyke fish-pond system, which is a response to waste recycling and soil fertility. This system can be described as,
“mulberry trees are grown to feed silkworms and the silkworm waste is fed to the fish in ponds. The fish also feed on waste from other animals, such as pigs, poultry, and buffalo. The animals in turn are given crops that have been fertilized by mud from the ponds. This is a sophisticated system as a continuous cycle of water, waste and food…with man built into the picture”
• As population grows and industry advances the city tries to incorporate potential agricultural growth by experimenting in new agricultural methods. The Fong Lau Chee Experimental Farm in Dongguan, Guangdong has worked with new agricultural advancements in lychee production. This farm was established with aspirations of producing large quantities and high quality lychees, by constantly monitoring sugar content, and their seeds. This research, conducted by local agricultural universities allows for new methods to be used with hopes of reaching the needs of city consumers.
• However due to increased levels of economic growth and pollution some urban farms have become threatened. The government has been trying to step in and create new technological advancements within the agricultural field to sustain levels of urban agriculture.
• “The city plans to invest 8.82 billion yuan in 39 agricultural projects, including a safe agricultural base, an agricultural high-tech park, agricultural processing and distribution, forestry, eco-agricultural tourism, which will form an urban agriculture with typical Shenzhen characteristics” in conjunction with this program the city is expected to expand the Buji Farm Produce Wholesale Market.
• According to the Municipal Bureau of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery the city will invest 600 million yuan on farms located around the city, with hopes of the farms to provide “60 percent of the meat, vegetables and aquatic products in the Shenzhen market”.
• There has also been an emerging trend of going green and organic as a response to pollution and pesticides used in farming practices. Vegetable suppliers are required to pass certain inspections held by the city’s Agriculture Bureau before they can be sold as “green”.
Some urban gardeners have used empty lots to start community or urban garden. However, the soil must be tested for heavy contamination in city soil because of vehicle exhaust and remnants of old construction. However, studies have found that such ground can be cultivated as long as the pH is kept neutral. The City also has a composting program, which is available to gardeners and farmers. One group, GreenThumb, provides free seedlings. Another program, the City Farms project operated by the nonprofit Just Food, profits courses on growing and selling food.
The benefits that UPA brings along to cities that implement this practice are numerous. The transformation of cities from only consumers of food to generators of agricultural products contributes to sustainability, improved health, and poverty alleviation.
• UPA assists to close the open loop system in urban areas characterized by the importation of food from rural zones and the exportation of waste to regions outside the city or town.
• Wastewater and organic solid waste can be transformed into resources for growing agriculture products: the former can be used for irrigation, the latter as fertilizer.
• Vacant urban areas can be used for agriculture production. • Other natural resources can be conserved. The use of wastewater for irrigation increases the availability of freshwater for drinking and household consumption.
• UPA can help to preserve bioregional ecologies from being transformed into cropland.
• Urban agriculture saves energy (e.g. energy consumed in transporting food from rural to urban areas).
• Local production of food also allows savings in transportation costs, storage, and in product loss, what results in food cost reduction.
• UPA improves the quality of the urban environment through greening and thus, a reduction in pollution.
• Urban agriculture also makes of the city a healthier place to live by improving the quality of the environment.
• UPA is a very efficient tool to fight against hunger and malnutrition since it facilitates the access to food by an impoverished sector of the urban population.
Poverty alleviation: It is known that a large part of the people involved in urban agriculture is the urban poor. In developing countries, the majority of urban agricultural production is for self-consumption, with surpluses being sold in the market. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), urban poor consumers spend between 60 and 80 percent of their income on food, making them very vulnerable to higher food prices.
• UPA provides food and creates savings in household expenditure on consumables, thus increasing the amount of income allocated to other uses.
• UPA surpluses can be sold in local markets, generating more income for the urban poor.
Community centers and gardens educate the community to see agriculture as an integral part of urban life. The Florida House Institute for Sustainable Development in Sarasota, Florida, serves as a public community and education center in which innovators with sustainable, energy-saving ideas can implement and test them. Community centers like Florida House provide urban areas with a central location to learn about urban agriculture and to begin to integrate agriculture with the urban lifestyle.
Other examples of community centers are Greensgrow Farm in Philadelphia and Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane, Australia. Greensgrow uses an abandoned site as an urban farm to teach the community how food is grown and how to grow their own food. Northey Street City Farm hosts weekly community activities to educate and involve local residents in agricultural practices.