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International Support to Research and Policy on Urban Agriculture (1996-2010): achievements and challenges

Farmers’ group in Durban. Photo by Ubuntu.

In the last 15 years urban agriculture has become a research and policy field in its own right, thanks to an unprecedented growth of interest and action by a widening spectrum of sectors and actors within local, national and international arenas.

By Luc J.A. Mougeot
via IDRC Communications
In Issue 25 of Urban Agriculture Magazine

City dwellers have been growing their own food for millennia. Only since the mid-1990s, however, has the concept of urban agriculture (UA) been formally recognized as the subject of research and public policy. Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has played a leading role in forging this new discipline and raising awareness of it.

In issue 25 of Urban Agriculture Magazine – RUAF 10 years, IDRC program officer and urban agriculture specialist Luc Mougeot traces the achievements of this young field and the challenges its practitioners face.

Taking the lead

Before the 1990s, interest in unregulated “city farming” had been largely confined to academic research, often conducted by individual scholars who approached UA primarily from the viewpoint of the informal economy. The rising costs of energy and food, water shortages, and worries about food safety shifted the perspective on city farming toward concerns like food security, eco-development, and self-reliance. Later still, it moved toward urban environmental management and sustainability issues such as waste recycling.

In the early 1990s development assistance organizations began placing UA on their agendas. Mougeot traces this growing attention to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. UNCED’s Agenda 21 plan encouraged local governments to become involved in managing city environments.

In the same year the United Nations Development Programme, as Mougeot puts it, “invited IDRC to take the lead on UA.” IDRC’s efforts accelerated to become a full program of work, highlighted by two phases of its ambitious Cities Feeding People research initiative carried out from 1996 to 2005.

Summary in IDRC Communications here.

In Issue 25 of Urban Agriculture Magazine here.