#Sow The Change
Can we produce enough food within the urban landscape to feed our cities? Is this not going to be at the expense of energy intensive technologies or create further water scarcity? Would we be able to grow not only enough but also the right type of food to meet our calorific requirements? Or are there any other benefits critically important, beyond only food production, that we should consider when talking about urban agriculture?
Most critics of urban agriculture claim that producing food in our urban spaces is not a silver bullet for food security, climate change and urban sustainability. And we agree! These problems are very complex and there is NO single silver bullet for ANY of them. This is not a shooting ducks’ competition or a hunting the werewolf fairy-tale but an exercise in bringing together parts of a puzzle that remind us what is to live in a fair and sustainable world. And every piece of the puzzle counts.
Last month, ZEA had the opportunity of being one of the sponsors of the Urban Agriculture Form organised by Sustain: The Australian Food Network (http://www.circlesoffood.org/) and hosted in the beautiful Melbourne University’s Burnley Campus.
While all presenters where incredibly inspiring, there is one session that caught my attention: Intangible benefits of Urban Agriculture. This also happened to be the very last session of the Forum.
Amongst the participants it was our new friend, Pablo Olvieri from Pro Huerta. Pro Huerta is a program implemented by the Ministry of Social Development in Argentina empowering vulnerable and low income families to grow their own food.
The most inspiring element of Pablo’s presentation was the fact that, in his own words, Pro Huerta was not initially conceived as an “urban agriculture” project. It just happened that the people that Pro Huerta is empowering live in urban and peri-urban areas.
While Pro Huerta has a very clear and measurable outcome in terms of food production, Pablo mentioned how important it has been for other more “intangible” benefits such as social coherence, community participation and political stability. Specially in developing countries, economic, environmental and political stability are highly interconnected issues and any program that can contribute to empowering communities in a sustainable and peaceful form will contribute to all these elements.
According to Pro Huerta’s website (http://prohuerta.inta.gov.ar/), over 4 million people have been impacted by this program. This impact is not insignificant in any way or from any angle, tangible or intangible, and remind us that urban agriculture projects have the potential to impact a significant number of people and even more in a future where between 60-80% of the population in the world will live in urban environments.
Yes, urban agriculture is about producing food in urban landscapes but, as explained by all the presenters in the Urban Agriculture Forum, it is much more than that:
- It is about connection with each other and with our environment
- Its about empowering communities to take control of their own health (mental and physical)
- Its about levelling the field in terms of opportunities for personal growth, education and skills development.
- Its about telling a different story for a world with over 7 billion people on how we can we live better together and in harmony with each other and the world that sustains us.
And at ZEA we are convinced that all these reasons are very much worth working for. And as Ron Finley would say "...plus you get strawberries".