Urban Agriculture

It is not easy to define urban agriculture and gardening because there is a large variety of urban farming systems, based on the local socio-economic, geographical and political situations (ETC, 2003). According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2007) urban agriculture is defined as “the growing of plants and the raising of animals for food and other uses within and around cities and towns, and related activities such as the production and delivery of inputs, processing and marketing of products”. Veenhuizen (2006) reported that urban agriculture is generally characterized by closeness to markets, competition for land, limited space, and use of urban resources such as urban organic wastes, water, and others. In this report urban agriculture is defined as: all food production (both animals and plants) in the urban and peri-urban area. Urban agriculture is much more than growing food. It can bring multiple benefits to health, social, economic and ecological issues. Urban agriculture enhances urban food security and nutrition, local economic development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion of disadvantaged groups and sustainable environmental management in the cities (Cohen et al., 2012). It provides an opportunity for better management of food demand, food production, food logistics and organic waste, because it has the potential to close cycles of nutrients, water and energy originating in food and make cities more sustainable.

Farming in and around the city is not the same as farming in the rural region in many aspects. It is possible to use various agricultural inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, water (waste and/or fresh), and soil however it needs firm regulation and inspection. Hence, to implement urban agriculture in and around the city specific conditions/policies are required such as institutional regulations, physical infrastructures, availability of space, in order to expand urban agriculture as well as to avoid the potential risks of contamination of produce (Mougeot, 2000). With the rise of urbanisation, agricultural production also increases within metropolitan and adjacent areas (Smith et al., 2001; Deelstra and Girardet, 1987). According to a UN report (2010), nowadays, 15-20% of the world’s food is produced in the city and this percentage will be doubled in the next 20 years. But, the development of urban agriculture is highly variable throughout the world. Urban agriculture is changing in response to political, economic, environmental, and technological developments. Consequently, many variable forms of urban agricultural production systems exist. According to Mougeot (2000), urban farming systems can be classified by location (e.g. roof, road side, unused lots, river bank, etc), type of crops cultivated (e.g. vegetables, spices, fruits, etc), tenure modality, scale of production (e.g. commercial, community, etc) and product destination (e.g. local market, own use).

Urban gardens or the so-called allotment gardens are increasingly popular in the world. Although this phenomenon is not new, it has received great attention from media as well as from policy makers and experts from various scientific disciplines. The beginnings of urban gardens date back to Europe in the early 18th century as a response to the urbanization and industrialisation of the cities. With people immigrating at the beginning of the 19th century this habit began to spread to other continents (Irvine et al., 1999). At that time, the main reasons for gardens in the urban areas were the mitigation of socio-economic hardships, poverty of the working class as well as the overall weak supply of vegetables in urban areas. The most recent "boom" in gardening is connected with solving many of the urban areas’ problems, which are not always related to food security but rather relate to social and health problems of the population, their limited access to green spaces and the economic and cultural revitalisation of degraded urban areas (Smith and Jehlička, 2013). However, the recent increased interest in gardening is also linked to the increasing concern of the population about food quality and costs as well as food insecurity and self-supply (Albert and Kohler, 2008; Corrigan, 2011; Evers 2011).

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Evers A. (2011). Food choices and local food access among Perth’s community gardeners. Local Environment 16, 585–602.

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Smith J., Jehlicka P. (2013). Quiet sustainability: Fertile lessons from Europe’s productive gardeners. Journal of Rural Studies. 32: 148–157.

Van Veenhuizen R. (Ed.) (2006). Cities farming for the future: urban agriculture for green and productive cities. IDRC.