What is something that reduces food waste, contributes 15% to 20% of the food worldwide, recycles nutrients, and is complementary to rural agriculture? Urban agriculture. That’s right: food that we grow in the city. Peri-urban agriculture (food grown in areas around the city) is also part of this practice. Collectively, urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) can potentially feed 20 million people in megacities by 2020.
Megacities are cities with a population of more than 10 million people. Today, many cities need a variety of ways to feed people in the future. Urban agriculture is part of the quality of life (nature, social, economic) for city dwellers.
Some of the fastest growing cities are Beijing, Mexico City, São Paulo, and Mumbai as well as New York City, Tokyo, Osaka and Cairo.
“Struggling to Avoid Hunger”
Many cities face ongoing challenges in feeding growing populations. Fortunately, urban and peri-urban agriculture offer solutions by growing food in small-scale gardens, farms, and using agricultural technology.
Forward-thinking food system researchers, urban planners, and public officials need to create policies today to feed people in the future.
While there is some debate about agricultural technology for food production, there is little debate about growing food insecurity (“struggling to avoid hunger“) in many developing nations and in the US.
UPA: A Promise for the Future
Here’s my list of urban and peri-urban agriculture projects that offer a promising future and possible solutions, to feed people in megacities.
- Abalimi is an urban agriculture and environmental action group near Capetown, South Africa. Abalimi helps people gain livelihoods through organic farming.
- Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students is an after-school program for low-income children in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a safe place kids to garden, visit local farms, try new foods and explore creative entrepreneurial projects.
- Canberra City Farm in Canberra, Australia, is a learning hub where people share their knowledge of sustainable and environmentally responsible food production.
- Fresh & Local: This group uses urban agriculture for improving health in Mumbai , India by changing empty spaces into gardens for growing food.
- Frisch vom Dach is an aquaponics project built on the roof of a former malt factory in Berlin, Germany, with a closed loop system to recycle nutrients to irrigate plants.
- Green Machine Mobile Food Market: This group of organizations delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income people in South Memphis, Tennessee.
- Huerto Tlatelolco is an edible forest in Mexico City, Mexico with tree varieties, a seed bank, and a large section of bio-intensive gardening for the local community.
- Mazingira Institute in Nairobi, Kenya offers training and support for 3,000 urban farmers and has organized youth and women’s hubs.
- Pasona O2 is an urban farm in Tokyo, Japan that grows over 100 types of produce indoors, underground, and on the exterior walls of an office building, Pasona O2.
- The Last Organic Outpost is a research farm teaching sustainable agriculture techniques in underserved areas and supports local farmers in Houston, Texas.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations UPA favors growing a variety of crops:
- Root crops
- Non-food product (medicinal herbs, tree products, ornamental plants)
- Animal products
- Small-scale aquaculture
- Combined tree systems and crop varieties (agroforestry)
More cities worldwide are creating UPA project in their plans to feed people. A few more intensive UPA projects include:
- Camp Green is a group that teaches people how to compost waste, grow produce, raise chickens, and learn to eat nutritious food in Kampala, Uganda.
- Ciades Sem Fome transforms empty land into community gardens, school gardens, and agricultural greenhouses to improve the health of people in São Paulo.
- City Farm Project grows pesticide-free produce, offers workshops on organic farming and advocates for changes to local agriculture policy in Bangkok, Thailand.
- Gaza Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Project is a partnership between Oxfam Italy and the RUAF Foundation to help small-scale urban producers and to support public policy for urban agriculture initiatives in Gaza.
- Milan Urban Food Policy Pact . The 2015 Pact is the first international protocol to develop sustainable food systems, and was signed by mayors from more than 100 cities across the world.
- Sustainable Actions for Edible (SAFE) Gardens is a multifunctional garden managed by a women’s cooperative that helps reduce malnutrition and food insecurity in Arusha, Tanzania.
These lists are not exhaustive. But I’m very excited to know that people around the world are thinking ahead about food.
Urban and peri-urban agriculture can be a practical solution to feed people in the future.
Farming is a profession of hope.