Urban agriculture could be one of many solutions to the imminent global food crisis.
I’ll start this article out with some little blips from NPR about the global food crisis and the riots they have sparked in Haiti this week.
The hand of a woman is covered in mud as she makes mud cookies on the roof of Fort Dimanche, Nov. 30, 2007. (ABC News)
They’re eating mud?
Does no one remember the Universal Declaration of Human Rights made in 1948?
Article 25 states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Last year on World Hunger Day (October 16) the FAO released a press release to remind us of this human right.
Eleven years after the 1996 World Food Summit the number of undernourished people in the world remains unacceptably high, with 820 million in developing countries, 25 million in countries in transition and 9 million in industrialized countries. As a result, promoting the right to food is not just a moral imperative or even an investment with huge economic returns, it is a basic human right, according to FAO. -FAO NewsRoom
Sixty years after this Declaration was signed by General Assembly of the United Nations, study after study show that we do produce enough food to feed the world over- its poverty thats the real problem.
The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9). The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.-worldhunger.org, 2008
Not only that, but a University of Michigan study from 2007 shows that “low-intensive food production systems (including organic and other natural approaches)” could sustain the current world population and maybe even more. Here’s the abstract.
Check out the proceedings from this FAO Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security from 2007.
Earlier this year the UN released a statement admitting that it no longer has the money to keep malnutrition at bay this year.
“We will have a problem in coming months,” said Josette Sheeran, the head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). “We will have a significant gap if commodity prices remain this high, and we will need an extra half billion dollars just to meet existing assessed needs… This is the new face of hunger. There is food on shelves but people are priced out of the market. There is vulnerability in urban areas we have not seen before.”
Its budget for 2008 was $2.9 billion dollars, which includes voluntary contributions from wealthier nations. ”But with annual food price increases around the world of up to 40% and dramatic hikes in fuel costs, that budget is no longer enough even to maintain current food deliveries (Borger).”
What are the main causes of these incredible hikes in food costs?
Recently, land and resources taken up by biofuels has been blamed for raises in cost. Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, says that this counts for about 30% of the raises in cost. Another 50% comes from the sharp growth in demand from a new middle class in China and India for meat and other foods, which were previously viewed as luxuries. Filling in the gaps are losses in world levels of grain storage due to erratic weather-induced changes…. And climate change will only become a greater issue over time. (Borger)
So what does all of this have to do with urban agriculture? TONS!
Urban agriculture enables individuals and families feed themselves on a very small-scale production. This agriculture can take place in open lots, on balconies, old tires, bags, baskets, rooftops, and around the perimeters of cities. the FAO realizes the value of urban and peri-urban (a silly name for agriculture on the edges of cities and other similar areas) agriculture. You can check out their websites here:
And one of the most instrumental advocates for urban agriculture, Jac Smit, had written tons and tons on sustainability through urban agriculture. Check some of his papers out here:
From the Desk of Jac Smit- tons of his papers in a big bundle
Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Sustainable Cities. UNDP, Habitat II Series, 1996.
Another great resource for information on how great urban agriculture is in the International Development Resource Centre. They have an exhaustive list of books you can download for free from their rather confusing website.
Here is the page of books about agriculture and development, many of them about urban agriculture.
Luc J.A. Mougeot works for them and is an INCREDIBLE person.
Lastly, a great website with lots and lots of documents is Resource centers of Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF).