What is urban farming? why is it important

Urban farming is a practice in the city or urban agriculture that deals with growing crops like fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses, etc., and raring domestic animals like poultry, duckery, piggery, etc., to ensure access to adequate food and nutrition within the city limits.

What is urban farming

City farming has many forms and structures depending on the space used for food production like the kitchen garden, terrace garden, balcony garden, rooftop garden, container garden or vertical farming.

Urban farming is the most viable solution for producing food in cities, using freely available natural resources like organic waste and wastewater, and it is also an economical solution to recycle badly placed organic waste, which is otherwise a nuisance to the city.

Urban farming can be a viable solution to grow food for the people and fodder for the animals in and around city areas on small scales to feed the urban poor in addition to producing food for their own consumption. Urban farmers can grow market-surplus food like fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, poultry, and piggeries to their communities. Approximately  20 percent of the world’s food is produced in urban areas in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses, fishery, poultry, mushrooms, etc.

Rapid urbanization is taking place, and it grows with urban poverty and food insecurity in urban pockets. It is estimated that by the year 2020, the food prices all over the world are soaring owing to the removal of both subsidies and price control that has eliminated access to adequate food by the poor people.

Urban farming is different from rural farming in that it is integrated, embedded, and interacting with the urban socioeconomic and ecological system. Such linkages include viable use of human and natural resources like unemployed youth as a working force, organic solid waste as manure and waste, and wastewater for irrigation. The city farming practices become integrated with part of urban consumption, urban ecology, and the urban food supply system.

Why urban farming matters:

It emerged as the frontier of a burgeoning trend in local food and community resiliency. Vegetables from the city are finding their way into food carts, menus.

The urban farming trend is not being ignored by local governments, as many municipalities are starting to incorporate policy for more local food systems into their planning processes. Support for initiatives associated with food systems is showing up in Official Community Plans, Agriculture Plans, park and neighborhood designs, and food strategies. At the same time, with this rapidly growing interest, many local governments are struggling with how this fits into their land-use policies, regulatory systems, and scope of operations, especially in the context of land being repurposed for growing food. Urban farmers are also looking for ways to eliminate barriers to the practice of farming in the city. The emerging need and opportunity around urban farming are to integrate these activities in a safe and beneficial way.

Importance of urban farming:

Nutritional importance:

The contribution to food security and healthy nutrition is the most important aspect of city farming. In many cases, food production in cities is a response of the urban poor with inadequate and irregular access to food and lack of purchasing power. Growing our own food saves household expenditure on food, and poor people in poor countries generally spend more income on food requirements. Thus, city farming activities can empower urban poor in producing their own food, fruits, and vegetables and safeguard their critical food security in critical times. A global estimate indicates that 15 percent of the world’s food is produced in urban areas.

Clean and green environment:

City farming is part of the urban ecosystem that plays an important role in the management of the urban environmental system. Fast-growing cities of the world produce, on a daily basis, more organic solid waste and wastewater than stabilized urban areas and most of them face problems of their disposal which is a costly affair. City farming can effectively help solve such problems by turning urban waste into productive manures. Quality-compost is an important input that can fetch good prices in the local market. The use of compost can prevent or reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and help prevent contamination of groundwater. In addition to this, initiatives in making city compost and vermicompost can effectively convert city-borne solid waste into environment-friendly manures and fertilizers thereby keeping the city environment clean and green. City farmers can use wastewater for irrigating their kitchen gardens without depending on potable drinking water available for family consumption. The fresh wastewater contains many nutrients and organic impurities that can serve as nutrients for crop growth. However, without proper guidance and treatment of wastewater, the use of wastewater can lead to health and environment-related problems like transportation and translocation of heavy metals in the human and animal biosystem. Modern farming technologies such as hydroponics, drip irrigation, and zero-tillage farming substantively reduce water needs and health risks involved in this process. In many cases, partial treatment of wastewater can be sufficient for agricultural reuse. City farming certainly has a positive impact on cleaning and greening of the city by turning open spaces into green zones with a favorable impact on the micro-climate free from pollution.

Employment generation:

Besides economic benefits to city farmers, city farming activities stimulate the development of related microenterprises, such as the production of necessary inputs like poly bags, earthen, cement and plastic pots and containers, fabrication of hand tools and implements, production of vermicompost manure, botanical and organic pesticides, bio-fertilizers and packaging materials and a network chain of transport and marketing. City farming generates an important strategy for poverty alleviation and employment generation, particularly for womenfolk who cannot leave home for earning their livelihood owing to various responsibilities, including the raring of children and guarding the house.

Future of city farming:

The future of city farming in densely populated countries and fast-growing cities is no doubt very bright and promising to owe to the fact that 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, 800 million of whom are involved in city farming around the world contributing to feeding the urban residents. Low-income urban groups spend more than 60 percent of their income on food, and by the year 2015, about 26 cities in the world are expected to have a population of more than 10 million each. To feed a city like this size, we require at least 6,000 tons of food every day; out of this, a good proportion of food has to be imported from outside the city or at least 20 percent of it should be supplemented by growing food in city farming, using natural resources like organic waste, wastewater and wasted women power available in the cities.

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