- Published: 15 May 2022
With urban planning, since its evolution, focusing on planned growth of a city by facilitating land use, the world now lives in cities while agriculture is relegated to rural mass.
Though nobody would like to read it, the hard reality is that rapid urbanisation has led to wastage of 1.3 billion ton of food every year while, one in every 7 people in the world goes to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die of hunger daily.
Such a situation would not have cropped up had cities tuned into modern urban planning intervention that takes care of farming as part of its land use. Cities like Bhubaneswar need to integrate it in its Smart City dreams.
Two years ago, the wave of lockdown reached world’s most of urban areas and Bhubaneswar was no exception. During the lockdown, people did many things in the confines of their homes to keep themselves engaged. Thousands of Bhubaneswar residents planted “lockdown gardens” in their backyards, rooftop and even inside homes enabling a hungry city to meet substantial percent of its homegrown fruits and vegetables.
Even without much incentives from government, now urban farming is staging a curious comeback. In recent years, residents of Bhubaneswar have set up their own nursery for encouraging people to grow crops in vacant lots or on rooftops. In simple terms, lockdown promoted the resurgence of community gardens or urban farming as the solution for “food deserts” in the city.
But do these nursery actually make sense? Are there real social or environmental benefits to grow food within city limits? Or is urban farming just a well-meaning but ultimately insignificant hobby for urban elites?
One of the bolder claims being tossed around about urban farming is that it can revitalise blighted neighborhoods and help combat food insecurity. What emerges is a nuanced picture. Urban farming is unlikely to provide cities with all that calories. The environmental advantages are too debatable.
But urban farms can provide a bunch of other neat benefits, from bolstering local communities to encouraging healthier diets. They can also give city-dwellers a better appreciation of how our food system works. The government may think of incentivising urban farming as a regular programme like KALIA scheme.
But this wasn’t always the case of city history. Early urban farms were explicitly pitched as a way of alleviating food shortages. But Bhubaneswar no longer suffers from food shortages. Large scale import supports a large amount of food every year. Besides, many residents are constrained by how much food they can ultimately grow considering the space constraint.
The more realistic hope is that community gardens and urban farms can provide some families with an additional source of healthy, low-cost produce. That’s a worthwhile goal in itself and it is believed that people, who engage in urban farming, eat more fruits and vegetables.
So, if the city really wants to understand the benefits of urban farming, it has to look beyond the food itself to food security. That brings us to the possible social benefits of urban farming. A number of cities across the globe have been pushing community gardens and farms as a way of revitalising neighborhoods falling into disrepair.
The presence of urban farms is associated with “improved neighborhood aesthetics, reduced crime, and community cohesion.” When a community garden is established, it keeps its resident engaged besides increasing social bonds and networks. As a result, these activities reduce tensions and foster social integration among otherwise segregated groups. Just like tilling the soil on a weekend is a great way to bring people together. It’s also a healthy, relaxing activity.
The urban farms can also serve as sites for education, youth development and skills/workforce training opportunities. Some cities have programs that use urban agriculture to help teach young people about science, environmental stewardship, and healthy eating.
There are other angles to consider too. Urban growers often use less water and fertilizer and pesticides than modern rural farms. Urban agriculture do have environmental benefits also. Community gardens and green roofs can help filter out local air pollution, cool down cities during summer and retain precipitation by avoiding storm-water runoff into nearby waterways. When designed well, urban gardens can provide valuable habitats.
People, who participated for the first time in a community garden, learned how difficult is to grow different crops and learnt the seriousness of food waste. By having first-hand experience about complex process of converting seeds into fruits children will have a much deeper appreciation for the natural systems on which city depend.
Urban agriculture also enables a community to be more conscientious about the people who feed the society like farmers, agriculture labourers, traders and cooks.
The lockdown garden experiment certainly motivated many residents to further explore the field and gain more skills. But it remains for government to look for answers such as do they become more engaged with nature? Do such gardens push for broader reforms in our food security pattern? Isn’t it time to look at Akshya Tritiya beyond rural areas into cities?
Right now, it’s a little tough to say. But, if urban farming keeps expanding with encouragement from government, this may turn out to be biggest achievement from pandemic that would hold lasting impact on future urban planning.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Piyush Rout
Quelle/Source: Odisha Bytes, 08.05.2022