How urban farming can save water and feed millions

By: Carolyn Fry

Agriculture is primarily perceived as a rural occupation that takes place far from the urban centres that consume many of its products. However, with more than half the world’s population now living in cities, farming is increasingly being practised within and around conurbations. The first-ever global assessment of the extent of urban and peri-urban agriculture, conducted jointly by IWMI (under the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems [WLE]), the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University, found that land equivalent in extent to the size of the European Union is now being farmed within 20 kilometres of cities. Some 67 million hectares of this farmland, around 14%, comprises open spaces lying within urban heartlands.

The release this month of the book Cities and agriculture: Developing resilient urban food systems, is therefore timely. Published by Earthscan and edited by Henk de Zeeuw, Senior Advisor at the Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF) Foundation, and Pay Drechsel, Principal Researcher at IWMI, the book reviews the state-of-the-art of urban and peri-urban agriculture.

International experts present their findings on everything from the inclusion of agriculture in urban planning, to the role of women in developing urban food strategies, and the safe use of organic wastes and wastewater within food production.

“Many different academic disciplines are working on urban agriculture, from experts in architecture to those concerned with climate change or human health,” explains Drechsel. “The purpose of the book was to summarize the growing body of literature on the subject and to make it available in a one-stop-shop.”

Read the full article: IWMI