What is Urban Agriculture?
We have a global population of around 8 billion and the farmers are required to serve this huge population. But we have limited land so the farmers need to produce the demanded amount of food from the available land and resources. To overcome this situation, farmers are turning to different sources of farming. This has given rise to Urban farming.
So how would this practice help with the world’s hunger ? We will find it in this article.
Introduction to Urban Agriculture
As the name suggests, this method of Agriculture takes place in urban cities and most of the people’s are now encouraged to start this type of farming in their rooftops or backyards, and even in the vacant lots or parks as well.
Most of the population resides in urban areas, so farmers are focused to practice farming in these areas so that they could cover the most population and this would also help them with reduced transportation costs incurred due to exporting of the products. The farming practice focuses on growing food crops on a populated land rather than isolated agricultural land. The practice is rapidly growing because of its potential to feed communities and generate economic opportunities. It promotes sustainability, affordability, health and convenience.
Urban agriculture involves sharing of the produce to commercial outlets apart from just personal consumption. The produced food is sold to the local farmer’s market, restaurants, etc. The farming just needs to be in a community with a high population.
What is Urban Agriculture?
Urban agriculture is a farming practice in which the food crops and animal products are produced by the local community and the products are consumed by the local residents inside the urban environment. It is also known as Urban farming or Urban gardening and it is also a used term for Animal husbandry, Aquaculture, Urban Beekeeping and Horticulture.
Urban Agriculture is defined as the growing, processing, and distribution of food and other food products through intensive plant cultivation methods and animal husbandry in and around the metropolitan areas.
Urban Agriculture varies from domestic agriculture and household level agriculture to large scale agriculture. It is creating a way for people to learn and get access to locally grown food. It acts as a direct link between the farmers and the consumers.
It consists of a number of production systems thereby creating employment opportunities and regular income for individuals. This also helps the countries in protecting their environment and also saving their foreign currency and transportation costs.
Examples of Urban Agriculture
The examples of Urban farming are:
- Aquaculture & Hydroponic farms
- Vertical farms
- Community farms
- Urban gardening
- Urban greenhouse farms
- Market farms
- Rooftop gardens
- Vacant lots & parks, etc.
Growing of crops in the urban and suburban areas using the local resources are all examples of Urban farms. The farming practice changes with the change in social, economical, physical and political conditions of the urban environment. Urban farms are more sustainable to produce food than rural farms and it requires a promising coordination, action, and dedication of the community groups, to create a lasting impact.
Importance of Urban Agriculture
Some of the important factors of Urban Agriculture are:
- It improves access to food to the local communities
- It helps in improving the local food system
- It provides food across communities reducing hunger
- It provides fresh food to the people who are socio-economically disadvantaged
- It will save transportation costs
- It is commercially beneficial
- It is environment friendly
- Its an alternative to ever-growing population and urbanization
- It improves the value of the property
- It provides opportunities to the local consumers to engage in food production
- It promotes responsible consumption and distribution of better quality foods
- It provides more employment opportunities
Types of Urban Agriculture
- Backyard gardens – This is the growing of food crops in your own home. It is mostly shared between friends, family or neighbours as it produces surplus harvest. Moreover the backyards are even shared to increase the yield.
- Street Landscaping – This is the landscaping of streets such as community gardens, to make the neighbourhood look beautiful and also purify the air and clean the environment. They help in reducing the urban runoff due to stormwaters.
- Forest Gardening – It is a practice of growing gardens within an urban forest to grow more fruits and vegetables and also promote afforestation thereby reducing global warming.
- Greenhouses – This is a setting up of greenhouses in commercial and residential spaces to grow crops all year round in a regulated environment.
- Vertical farming – This is a farming method in which planting is done in vertical columns in walls or sideways, thus saving space.
- Rooftop Gardening – This is a practice of growing crops, herbs and vegetables on the rooftop space. It helps in purifying the air and also reduces the urban heat. This is also used to beautify the leisure establishment.
- Tactical Gardening – This method of farming utilizes the vacant spaces such as parking lots for making it a worthwhile space to grow more crops for the community.
- Animal Husbandry – This is the method of animal rearing for foods where the various animals such as chickens, goats, rabbits could be dwelled in any selected location.
- Urban Beekeeping – This method is equally advantageous as bees produce honey and act as pollinators promoting biodiversity but there are certain restrictions and regulations regarding its farming.
- Aquaponics – It is a method of rearing marine animals such as fish and acts as an alternative protein.
Urban farming ideas
Urban Agriculture is not a new concept for today’s farmers but it has made a way to many more opportunities that were not before. It has helped people to grow the foods they want and the way they want. It doesn’t matter who grows it, whether they are traditional farmers or not, or where they grow it.
Some ideas for Urban farming are:
- Backyard permaculture can be done to promote healthy environment and also harvest food
- Raising of backyard chickens for producing eggs & meat
- Container gardens or Patio gardens to grow fresh vegetables & herbs for own selves
- Polyculture for small gardens
Benefits of Urban Agriculture
Urban Agriculture has a lot of advantages of which some are listed below:
- It provides photos security
- It creates more employment opportunities for people
- It gives rise to business dealing with the products
- It increases the value of the residential areas due to making of the gardens
- It creates green spaces
- It reduces stormwater runoff, improves biodiversity, purify the air and reduce the urban heat Island impact
- It promotes less use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and herbicides
- It helps to bring communities together by putting the unused property to good use
- It produces food at an affordable price
- Lesser transportation leads to less food damages and prevents loss of nutrients
- It reduces the dependence on processed foods promoting a healthier lifestyle
- It requires less space to grow crops
- It promotes skill development for those who are interested in agriculture
- It gives opportunity to interact with people from different cultures
- It helps in preserving indigenous herbs and crops
- It decreases Carbon footprint as the consumption and production of goods are in the same place
- It increases the demand of fruits and vegetables as the products are fresh
- It ensures that no one remains hungry as the food when grown in a community would be aware of those who are hungry
- It would raise a healthy community who has a stronger bond
- It enhances creativity and innovation in agricultural methods
Current status of Urban Agriculture in India
As the time is passing people are getting more interested in home gardens and they are learning ways of growing plants, herbs and certain food crops as well. Many people are in fear that they may not get the produce as the population is rising indefinitely and this has motivated them to start thinking about growing their own food.
There are many students who are interested in Urban Agriculture programs and training conducted to educate them. They are learning to start their own small produce business, thus helping local communities and also teaching healthy habits to others.
People in the cities and towns are now converting their vacant parking lots, garages, streets into gardens thereby increasing food security. Even the banks and schools are also focusing on planting their own gardens and using it as teaching centres and a source of food for their cafeterias.
Farming techniques such as Hydroponics, Aquaponics or Vertical farms are making people grow foods in larger scales. Those who don’t have much space for planting, can grow in homes and garages on a small scale and become self-sustainable.
Urban farming techniques help you to earn a full time income if you have passion for agriculture. Some foods such as mushrooms require very little space & effort but have high margins. Vertical farming and Rooftop gardens can help in providing food to local communities. It provides a range of advantages for the neighbourhood communities and also improves food security and gives people access to fresh, healthy and nutritious food at an affordable price.