Strategic Cooperation

Archives: Urban Agriculture (urban sustainability)
A preparatory study designed to explore the possibilities of greater involvement by non-governmental organisations in urban agriculture.

An Introduction on Urban Agriculture

This research has been conducted on behalf of Both ENDS, in Amsterdam and Alterra, in Wageningen. It is a preparatory study designed to explore the possibilities of greater involvement by non-governmental organisations (hereafter NGOs) in urban agriculture (hereafter UA).

UA is increasing and with its potential is becoming widely acknowledged in public and political debates, both on international (e.g. Agenda 21, Habitat-2 Conference on Human Settlements, World Food Summit) and European fora. In these debates, the need for more active participation by NGOs in UA is expressed. Generally, most projects do allow for NGO participation. However, this is usually once projects have been formulated already and funding is secured. The role of the NGO is in extension work, co-ordinating people’s participation in the project. Given that successful integration of UA requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders, NGOs need to be integrated earlier and more extensively.

Currently, many of the NGOs that are working on UA provide the following services:
  • Provision of training and technical advice with a strong emphasis on organic or ecological farming practices.
  • Participatory field research oriented at development of technologies suitable for farming in given areas and the organisation of residents so as to reclaim or make use of certain public areas for UA.
  • Education on the benefits of growing vegetables for improving nutrition levels as well as food preservation and storage facilities (with regards to new crops being introduced to raise nutrition levels).
This report, however, identifies a number of additional contributions that NGOs can make with respect to a more holistic perspective for the planning of UA. These include:
  • Identify the entry point for UA: Is it for household consumption to increase nutrition levels or the market. It cannot be assumed a priori that what UA farmers produce will necessarily be consumed. There is a need to take into account urban diet patterns and the gendered nature of labour, income distribution, and crops grown.
  • Identify the resources available to local government in providing infrastructure and services to service UA farmers; and where NGOs have the skills to fill in.
  • Identify the linkages between urban and rural farmers, processors, and sellers (both formal and informal sectors) so as to facilitate direct marketing schemes to bring local producers and consumers together. Street food vendors (many of whom are now organised), for example, could be targeted to buy directly from UA producers. Or another niche market would be in the tourist sector, producing food for hotels. The issue here is of assuring a regular, standard, and healthy supply of vegetables.
  • Lobby local governments for access to vacant public and private lands, promote multifunctional land use, and greater community participation in the management of urban open spaces.
  • Establish micro-credit schemes for urban farmers (emphasis on women producers and the resource poor).
  • Set-up inter-agency committees on UA composed of different stakeholders (e.g. government, CBOs, research, and business).
Funding NGOs in the North (i.e. the Netherlands) can make the following contributions to UA:
  • Integrate UA as a key concept in urban development programmes. It can have social, economic, environmental benefits.
  • Stimulate Networking. This is important and necessary once it is recognised that urban problems are more complex and involve diverse actors and, therefore, require a more collaborative approach. Breadth of activities that they should consider can range from research to education, to market construction, and to execution. Funding should not only be to established partners (as is often the case now) but it should be geared to create multi-sectoral linkages so as to develop a common ground for action. This minimises duplicating efforts. Strong multi-sector alliances have greater probability of exerting influence on local policy-makers to change their policies.
  • Facilitate dialogue between different stakeholders so as to build consensus on UA.
Urban Agriculture: An Overview