Urban and Periurban Agriculture and Urban Planning

Discussion paper for FAO-ETC/RUAF electronic conference "Urban and Periurban Agriculture on the Policy Agenda"

August 21 - September 30, 2000

This discussion paper is prepared by Axel W. Drescher, University of Freiburg, Germany and based on several sources cited in the references. It is a collection of ideas and does not, as a whole, reflect the opinion of any individual author.

I. Introduction

This paper deals with planning aspects of urban and periurban agriculture (UPA). The paper is organised according to three general questions:

Specific questions are posed at the end of the paper for discussion in each session of the E-conference. The first session will address the "situation assessment and analysis" concerning UPA and Urban Planning. The subsequent two sessions on policies and action plans will also open up with specific questions that will be derived from the discussion in the previous session, in addition to those posed below. For definitions of and resources for UPA please use the information market www.ruaf.org/info_market.html: Resources on Urban Agriculture.

II. General Urban Planning concepts

We take the view that Urban Planning should be more than the preparation of master plans or blueprints for the future. Even when such master plans have involved substantial time and effort to prepare, they are not relevant to real developments on the ground if stakeholders do not adhere to them. In other words, the authority of a master plan can vary a great deal. Effective planning also depends upon the ability of planning authorities to enforce whatever has been agreed upon. The co-ordination and facilitation of all the individual decisions affecting urban land uses is as important as a master plan that is respected. This involves a fair amount of negotiation among stakeholders regarding their preferences: e.g. how much to intensify agriculture or how many additional dwellings to put on a plot of land.

Thus, a first step in the urban and periurban planning process is to identify the stakeholders and institutions involved and to determine how to reflect their interests in the plans that are finally implemented. Some stakeholders are stronger than others. One tends to think that big real estate development agencies, public or private, are the strongest players. This is not necessarily the case. Individually weak stakeholders, such as small-scale market gardeners, can affect decisions by organising themselves around a common interest. Collective action enables them to have plans revoked that ignored their interests, and to modify plans to better fit their needs.

To what extent are various functions of city life -- such as farming -- included in the urban planning process? This involves decisions of scope and scale for planners.

A city plan can be narrow or broad. It can be focused only on urban land uses and infrastructure, or it can incorporate environmental concerns and use of natural resources, such as water systems. The most ambitious urban plans reflect the interactions among all sectors in the urban area -- including urban food systems and agricultural demands. A comprehensive plan also links with land use planning in periurban areas and the surrounding countryside.

As well, urban planning can be approached at different scales: from that affecting residents at a micro level, such as delineating which small business activities are allowed in the urban area, to far-reaching decisions such as the amount of open space to be preserved within or around the city. A comprehensive city plan should include considerations of what is desired at all levels and be formulated and agreed upon by all relevant stakeholders.

Sometimes planners in adjacent jurisdictions working at different scales or levels, operate or are unaware of those at another scale. Conflicts can also arise when different public officials have responsibility for activities affecting planning efforts. Commonly, it is the responsibility of urban planners to identify locations for UA, while local municipal councils are largely responsible for permitting urban agricultural activities. When the monitoring of agricultural activities occurs, this falls under the purview of agriculture or health departments, while outreach or extension services are provided primarily by agricultural and veterinary departments.

The ultimate objective of an urban plan is to create a liveable city - relatively free of conflicts among dwellers and uses, providing for the needs of its citizens, and maintaining its natural resources. The role of urban and periurban agriculture in a city plan is to contribute to those ends. Urban planning should incorporate UPA in order to:

III. Issues regarding integration of UPA into Urban Planning

The urban food system is so far not sufficiently reflected in the urban planning process in many countries. The urban food system connects to many other urban systems - notably the agricultural sector, the economy and ecological systems. Urban people are not passive food recipients; in many locations they are actively involved in food production. City planning should incorporate an understanding of household food security and nutrition conditions, agricultural research and economic forces. Other components, which also need proper urban planning, are the marketing and distribution of food from rural areas into and within cities.

A first step to good planning is to define this complex interaction and to inform all the interested stakeholders. This process of integration has been carried out and implemented in some cities and countries; their experiences can provide learnings to be 'fine-tuned' to reflect local circumstances.One objective of this conference is to share the experiences of cities that have attempted to integrate agriculture into city planning. In most of the world's cities, little is known about the actual extent to which inner city areas are used for agricultural purposes. Also, little is known about the spatial distribution of urban agriculture in the cities. We invite your contributions in describing these experiences and needs.

Negative perceptions (justified and unjustified) about UPA, held by the various players in the planning process, must be overcome through a combination of targeted and persuasive education, demonstration and participation. Also to be discussed among local stakeholder groups and policy-makers are their images about the city they live in, appropriate activities to take place within the city, and how to address the real needs of community members.

Planners implement policies by using tools such as land-use zoning and ordinances, reviews, capital investment, subdivision control and various economic instruments. But the integration of UPA requires going beyond traditional planning approaches. New tools will increase the understanding of UPA and its interactions with other urban systems. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is a tool that can provide some of the basic facts about urban agriculture. The use of GIS offers the conversion of an urban land database into an urban planning database. Widely used for urban planning purposes, map overlay is probably the most useful tool for planning and decision-making. Decision-makers can also simulate the effects of different planning scenarios using GIS data.

IV. Availability of, access to, and usability of land

Historically, public support for access by the poor, to urban land for food production has arisen for economic and cultural reasons [schreber gardens, allotment gardens]. In the post-World War II period, urban farming examples include the Gorbachev reforms in Russia, Mozambique's zonas verdes, Cuban hydroponicos, Mongolian school gardens, South Africa's provincial urban small-scale farms, and 'community gardens' in France and the United States.

Two principles have guided these experiences in urban farming:

  1. The human right to produce food and therefore the public accountability to provide access for the poor to land in a convenient location [allotments et al.]
  2. The human right of access to natural resources, preceding property or usufruct rights. Usufruct rights state that any citizen has the right to farm or graze land that is idle, considering that such farming does not diminish the value of the property to the owner or tenured person.

Despite traditions in some countries, access to land must be distinguished from availability of land; land may be available or present in a city but not accessible to farmers because of political or social constraints to its use or redistribution. Generally, agriculture in urban areas suffers greater ecological and economic pressures than rural agriculture, requiring more intensive and better controlled production to stay competitive and secure.

When land availability is restricted, urban farmers tend to be opportunistic, and find creative ways to use the smallest plots or strips of land and water. This leads to farming on land originally set aside for other purposes, on land that is hazardous and therefore unusable, or land that has been abandoned or contaminated by past uses, sometimes without the farmer even being aware of the hazard. Such opportunistic use may result in unregulated production and processing that may be hazardous to consumers. Planners can assist poor families to access farming in the city through:

Urban planners can contribute to these opportunities by identifying appropriate zones for farming activities, encouraging the infrastructure developments needed by farmers, and implementing protective measures to provide land security. Many creative approaches to these measures are available, including land swaps, long-term leasing arrangements and community ownership.

V. Enhancing beneficial agricultural land use in urban areas


There have been striking successes of UPA in response to national policy changes and economic crises since 1980 [Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Cuba, Romania, Russia, Malaysia]. Many cities have had success with pro-UPA policies [Newark NJ, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Baghdad, Durban, Kampala, Moscow]. Some cities have reversed their pro-UPA policies [Lusaka, New York]. Still others have considered adopting pro-UPA policies but then decided not to [Cape Town].

Urban officials and planners need an array of strategies and tools to be at their disposal for implementing wise agricultural land-use policies. They also need to become informed about the costs and feasibility of incorporating agriculture as a viable land use in the city, as well as the costs and feasibility of precluding agriculture as a viable land use.

A successful policy approach to advance the integration of UPA with city management requires the following issues to be considered:

Action Plans

Urban and Periurban Agriculture is practised even without official support. Usually this is done on a rather individualistic basis, most often in the twilight between legality and illegality. Technical and infra-structure services and support are not available, but also not expected. The result can be that farmers do not adhere to rules and regulations, e.g. using contaminated irrigation water and unhealthy plant protection measures. The situation changes when the farmers articulate their demand, or policy- makers or implementers get attracted to UPA. In order to become a respected partner in discussions, practitioners have to get organised. They have to develop a vision for their activity; otherwise, strategies developed by researchers or policy makers will be forced on them. They have to learn to air their demand for governmental services, but also to take up their duties as urban residents and members of a community (to cope with the potential negative effects of UPA). This transformation from an informal activity to a respected employment opportunity can be facilitated by a plan of action that will increase the chances of support from policy-makers.

Planning is foresight and vision

Planning involves the anticipation of things to come, changes, crisis prevention and visions of future design of cities. Planning involves forecasting or projecting future urban populations and land requirements for housing as well as industries, trade, offices, public facilities, transport, green open spaces, etc. To stimulate creative thought about all possible developments, it helps to draw a number of scenarios for the city in 10, 20 or 50 years' time.

An even more important element of foresight is to take preparatory measures that are consistent with Sustainable City Development. Urban and periurban agriculture is not yet fully recognised as an important factor in sustainable city development. Therefore, there is a need to integrate UPA in programmes and best practices in urban and regional planning and the latest concepts of sustainable city development. The UNCHS (Habitat) "Sustainable City Programme" is an on-going programme that could support the integration of urban and periurban agriculture in urban planning processes.

VI. Discussion Questions

This conference will consist of three discussion sessions. For each of them, we have formulated some opening questions. We invite you to put forward other questions that should be discussed. Next to your contributions to the discussions in each round, we welcome case studies, examples of `good practices', thematic papers and videos, which will be published on the information market (in the Urban Planning section).

To motivate discussion in Session One of the E-conference (August 21 - September 1) regarding the known facts and research on the topic of UPA and urban planning, we ask you to consider the following questions:

For discussion in Session Two (September 2 - 16) regarding policy options for UPA and urban planning, we ask you to consider the following questions:

For discussion in Session Three (September 17 - 30) regarding action plans for UPA and urban planning, please consider the following questions:

VII References

Jac Smit (TUAN), 2000; "Background paper main - theme UPA and urban planning" (prepared for this electronic conference)

Leo van den Berg (ALTERRA), 2000; "Paper for the CGIAR SIUPA Action Plan Development Workshop South East Asia Pilot Site, Hanoi, 6-9 June 2000, Peri-urban agriculture and urban planning".

Sonja Quon (CFP Series, IDRC), 1999; Planning for Urban Agriculture: A Review of Tools and Strategies for Urban Planners, Cities Feeding People (CFP) Report, 28. Ottawa. IDRC Web Page Information: http://www.idrc.ca/cfp/factssq_e.html.

Petra Jacobi, Axel Drescher, Jörg Amend (GTZ, University Freiburg), 2000; Urban Agriculture: Justification and Planning Guidelines. GTZ, Eschborn. Partly published in: RUAF - Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2000.

Stefan Dongus & Axel Drescher (University of Freiburg), 2000; "La aplicación de Sistemas de Información Geográficos (GIS) y Sistemas de Posición Global/Global Positioning Systems (SPG/GPS) para trazar un mapa de actividades agrícolas urbanas y el espacio abierto en ciudades". Presentación al Taller "La Agricultura Urbana en las Ciudades del Siglo XXI", Hotel Hilton Cólon en Quito, Ecuador, 16 al 21 de abril de 2000.

Axel Drescher & David Iaquinta (Universities of Freiburg, Nebraska Wesleyan), 1999; "Urban and peri-urban Agriculture: A new challenge for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)". FAO - Internal report. Rome.