In the spring of 2018 we started work on ‘Urbanising in Place’, an international research project that sought to identify how we can create cities that support agroecological food growing.
The focus of the project was the potential for food growing in the peri urban areas of cities. This includes the edgelands where there are still productive farms and market gardens operating at scale but under constant development pressure, and the greenbelt where land is protected from development but where previously or potentially productive land is often more valued for leisure purposes, aesthetic reasons or horse grazing.
Working with academics from the the Universities of Coventry, Ghent, Sheffield and Wageningen, and with communities of practice in Rosario, Riga, Brussels and London, the project worked to identify and define components of an “agroecological urbanism”: a model of urbanisation which places food, metabolic cycles and an ethics of land stewardship, equality and solidarity at its core.
Outcomes of the project have included:
- The development of a new international project involving Urbanising in Place partners and some other projects funded under the SUGI (Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative) programme to explore practices and policy remedies for addressing the degradation of urban soils.
- The development of the UK-focussed Fringe Farming project which is supporting the development of peri urban farming in London, Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol.
- Identification of the need for better knowledge and understanding of how to assess local soil quality and for a public campaign – such as we have seen for air quality, plastics and pollinators – to raise awareness of the need to protect soils from degradation.
Meanwhile in each of the other cities project partners have been exploring:
- How existing social and political commitments to development of the Greenbelt as a zone of agroecological growing can be strengthened (Rosario, Argentina).
- How the city can support and strengthen existing informal practices of foraging, seed sharing etc (Riga, Latvia).
- The potential to develop a ‘centre for agroecology’ as a place to bring together traditional rural farmers and new urban farmers, and develop shared governance to take forward agroecology in the city (Brussels, Belgium).
Drawing together learning from across all four partner cities the project identified eight key building blocks required for the development of a successful agroecological urbanism.
.A range of online resources is being developed to share the learning and explore the nature of these building blocks in more detail.
The project was funded by Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI) Food-Water-Energy Nexus, jointly established by the Belmont Forum and the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe.