Urban Agroecology is an emerging field of research and practice that seeks to bridge food movement and social movements with the scientific rigour of ecology. It seeks to improve the ecological, economic and social sustainability of cities. It advances the critique of industrial agriculture and its negative effects on ecosystem services, food systems and climate change, and it provides alternatives based on small scale, urban production that are resilient to disasters, climate change, and economic recessions.
Agroecology has its roots in resistance to the Green Revolution, the ferments of peasant organizations and the social-political engagement of food movements. Agroecological activism is global, but its praxis is now increasingly focused on transforming the urban food landscape. This is reflected in the growing number of community-university partnerships that are supporting urban agroecological transformations.
From urban farms to backyard gardens, agroecological landscapes are laboratories for experimenting with alternative forms of agriculture and food production. They are sites where agroecological knowledge is co-created between scientists, students and communities. They are spaces that are both productive and convivial, and they offer glimpses into the relationships that link science, practice and social movement.
UA is often viewed as a response to the insecurities of food security, and in particular the lack of access for some urban communities to fresh, healthy foods. Yet, it is also a means for improving the health and well-being of citizens through diet diversification, physical activity, community building and social cohesion. UA can be a means of combating the rising incidence of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and poor nutrition.
The production of vegetables, fruits and some animal products in close proximity to consumers, through urban agroecological techniques, provides a direct way for cities to increase the quality of the city’s food supply. It provides access to nutritious foods and helps address the growing problem of childhood obesity, diabetes and malnutrition. It is also a means to promote economic development, job creation and a local food economy and to preserve and promote traditional and heritage crops.
Many studies suggest that agroecological approaches to urban agriculture can achieve higher yields than industrial agricultural production methods. Agroecological landscapes can be up to 15 times more productive than conventional agricultural holdings and are capable of producing a diverse crop rotation in relatively small areas.
A diversified urban agroecological system is highly resilient, as it reduces dependency on fossil fuels and carbon-intensive chemicals and enhances soil fertility and water management. It also enables the preservation of traditional and cultural foods and practices and shortens value chains and reduces food waste and losses. Furthermore, it is able to adapt to climate change through the use of shade and moisture-retaining structures. Lastly, it encourages local food traditions and supports local food sovereignty.