The rapid growth of cities in the developing world is placing enormous demands on urban food supply systems, hence, this extremely indispensable concept “Urban Agriculture”. Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. It can be simply defined as growing fruits, herbs, and vegetables, and raising animals in cities.
A major question that faces the existence of urban agriculture is the distinguishing factor from the rural agriculture. The urban agriculture is distinguished from rural agriculture by its ability to be integrated into the urban economic and ecological system.
The concept of Urban Agriculture will expand the economic base of the city through production, processing, packaging, and marketing of consumable products. This will result in an increase in entrepreneurial activities and the creation of jobs, as well as reducing food costs and improving quality. It will also culminate in improved overall social and emotional well-being
The current industrial agriculture system is accountable for high energy costs for the transportation of foodstuffs. According to a study by Rich Pirog, the associate director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, the average conventional produce item travels 1,500 miles (2,400 km), using, if shipped by tractor-trailer, 1 US gallon (3.8 l; 0.83 imp gal) of fossil fuel per 100 pounds (45 kg). The energy used to transport food is decreased when urban agriculture can provide cities with locally grown food
Vacant urban lots are often victim to illegal dumping of hazardous chemicals and other wastes. They are also liable to accumulate standing water and “grey water”, which can be dangerous to public health, especially left stagnant for long periods. The implementation of urban agriculture in these vacant lots can be a cost-effective method for removing these chemicals.
Urban agriculture is important to the agricultural sector because vegetable growers spend less on transport, packaging and storage, and can sell directly through street food stands and market stalls. More income goes to them instead of middlemen, thereby increasing the quota of agriculture in poverty alleviation. It also provides employment and incomes for poor women and other disadvantaged groups.
Urban agriculture can reflect varying levels of economic and social development. In the global north, it often takes the form of a social movement for sustainable communities, where organic growers, ‘foodies,’ and ‘locavores’ form social networks founded on a shared ideology of nature. These networks can evolve when receiving formal institutional support, becoming integrated into local town planning as a ‘transition town’ movement for sustainable urban development. In the developing south, food security, nutrition, and income generation are key motivations for the practice. In either case, more direct access to fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat products through urban agriculture can improve food security and food safety.
Furthermore, the current industrial agriculture system is accountable for high energy costs for the transportation of foodstuffs. The energy used to transport food is decreased when urban agriculture can provide cities with locally grown food. The energy-efficient nature of urban agriculture can reduce each city’s carbon footprint by reducing the amount of transport that occurs to deliver goods to the consumer.
Also, daily intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Urban agriculture is associated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables which decreases risk for disease and can be a cost-effective way to provide citizens with quality, fresh produce in urban settings. Talking about nutrients, the nutrient content of produce from an urban garden may be higher due to decrease in time between production and consumption. A 30 to 50 per cent nutrient loss can happen in the time it takes to travel from farm-to-table.
The aforementioned make the practice of urban agriculture extremely inviting but why then is urban agriculture almost inexistent and how can we incorporate it in our society in the 21st century?
To be continued….