A Capetonian teacher grows her salad herbs on a shady spot on her balcony because, she says, rocket, basil and other tasty leaves are totally unaffordable in supermarkets. An elementary school principle in Seoul, South Korea, has turned the roof of his school into a vegetable garden. Before school starts this is where he can be found, tending to his tomatoes, carrots and other veggies which end up in the school lunch trays of the pupils.
According to The Edible City presently more than half the world’s population lives in cities. This number is set to rise and the projected figure for 2050 is up to three quarters of the total global population. Commercial farming is fast becoming an unsustainable practice as much of the land in Europe and the America’s has either been exhausted through farming or urbanised. Africans should give pause for thought to the fact that, according to former secretary general of the UN, Kofi Anan, around 60% of the world’s arable land is in Africa. Mostly unused or utilised for subsistence agriculture only.
The question is, if there is no land to farm on, and no-one farming it what there is, what are we going to eat?
The answer lies in the fascinating urban farming movement, as simple as the anecdotes above. Landscape architects, policy planners and community groups are looking for ways to integrate growing urbanisation and food security. People in the cities need access to quality fresh produce. The Edible City notes that growing levels of obesity are linked to shortage, and high prices of, fresh produce available in cities. According to UN Development Programme around 800 million people practice urban agriculture worldwide.
The innovation shown in projects is inspiring. Residential yards have been converted into veggie gardens; or homeowners lease out their garden’s to local community co-ops that grow food for the community. Empty fields or parks in communities can have sections converted for agriculture. The Edible City warns that it is important to first test soil for lead or other poisonous chemicals.
In large cities like London roofs are being effectively used for agricultural plots. Food from the Sky a movement in London is establishing an “alternative approach to food production and consumption.” At present the group grows organic vegetables, herbs and fruit from the Thornton’s Budgens supermarket’s rooftop in Crouch End, North London. The fresh food is then sold in the supermarket, “10 meters from soil to shelf.”
South Africa may not have the land shortage, but with increased urbanisation, rising petrol costs and other agricultural dilemmas, food security is under threat here too. Fortunately, if there is one thing we do have, its space. Foodjams would love hear about how and where you are growing your own vegetables.
Tell us about your city agri-project and lets turn it into a Foodjam for the future.
– Natalie Simon