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Towards Regenerated and Productive Vacant Areas through Urban Horticulture: Lessons from Bologna, Italy

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Pictures of urban horticulture projects in Bologna.

Six case studies representing this variety of vacant areas were identified and evaluated

By Daniela Gasperi, Giuseppina Pennisi, Niccolò Rizzati, Francesca Magrefi, Giovanni Bazzocchi, Umberto Mezzacapo, Monique Centrone Stefani, Esther Sanyé-Mengual, Francesco Orsini, and Giorgio Gianquinto
Sustainability Journal
December 2016

Abstract:

In recent years, urban agriculture has been asserting its relevance as part of a vibrant and diverse food system due to its small scale, its focus on nutrition, its contribution to food security, its employment opportunities, and its role in community building and social mobility. Urban agriculture may also be a tool to re-appropriate a range of abandoned or unused irregular spaces within the city, including flowerbeds, roundabouts, terraces, balconies and rooftops. Consistently, all spaces that present a lack of identity may be converted to urban agriculture areas and, more specifically, to urban horticulture as a way to strengthen resilience and sustainability.

The goal of this paper is to analyse current practices in the requalification of vacant areas as urban gardens with the aim of building communities and improving landscapes and life quality. To do so, the city of Bologna (Italy) was used as a case study. Four types of vacant areas were identified as places for implementing urban gardens: flowerbeds along streets and squares, balconies and rooftops, abandoned buildings and abandoned neighbourhoods. Six case studies representing this variety of vacant areas were identified and evaluated by collecting primary data (i.e., field work, participant observations and interviews) and performing a SWOT analysis. For most cases, urban horticulture improved the image and quality of the areas as well as bringing numerous social benefits in terms of life quality, food access and social interaction among participants. Strong differences in some aspects were found between top-down and bottom-up initiatives, being the later preferable for the engagement of citizens. Policy-making might focus on participatory and transparent planning, long-term actions, food safety and economic development.

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