Original publication: April 2018
Authors: Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF): Annette Piorr, Ingo Zasada, Alexandra Doernberg, Felix Zoll, Wiebke Ramme
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Urban and peri-urban Agriculture in the EU

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Over the last decades urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPUA) in the Global North has gained increasing awareness and interest by society, policy and research. On the one hand, it is due to the good connectivity of the topic to public and stakeholder debates on food issues (quality, transparency, traceability, security, regional production, organic production, sovereignty, short food supply chains). On the other hand, due to large societal and economic transformations the debates (on sustainable land use and urban development, economic competitiveness, ageing and migration, quality of life, adaptation to climate change and resilience) are taking place in a less integrated way. More than in the past UPUA is perceived as a multifunctional solution, partly because civil society is involved in the co-development of innovative practices and governance models.

Main findings

UPUA comprises food production in and around urban areas, ranging from leisure to commercial activities. Scale, intensity, use of technology and output vary considerably depending on the type and the focus of UPUA. Distinctive features are explained through location factors and different degrees of professionalism. UPUA developed from a means of self-supply in times of crises to a multifunctional land use resulting in manifold benefits on a social, economic, ecologic and cultural level. Although, especially in peri-urban areas highly productive commercial farms exist, the commercial potential has not fully unfolded yet and is facing several constraints. However, business strategies such as diversification, differentiation and specialisation depict promising opportunities to create economic value from the multifunctionality of UPUA.

Ageing, gender issues, migration and social inclusion are societal transformations and drivers for UPUA. As examples illustrate, UPUA can offer solutions like new models for generational renewal, improved gender balance in agriculture, inclusion of refugees and intercultural community action. However economic transformations like global markets and competitiveness affect UPUA due to its location in urban proximity and affect farm structure and specialisation of UPUA. Access to land is a serious challenge and is starting to rapidly gain attention in governance. Societal acceptance for UPUA in general is high, but a certain preference for traditional small-holder systems, whereas technology-driven urban, zero-acreage solutions are also seen critical.

UPUA is widely acknowledged and gains more attention by policy makers and scientists from global to local level. Research funding through the European Framework Programmes and Horizon 2020 has supported the generation and spreading of knowledge and innovation for UPUA with highly increasing budgets and recognising and exploiting the functional diversity and capability for integrated system approaches.

Despite the growing interest the existing policies usually do not sufficiently target UPUA and are not very feasible for the specific situation and for the diversity of urban and peri-urban farms operating at the urban-rural interface. Especially the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is the main policy for farming and food production in the EU does not match the specific needs of UPUA due to their particular characteristics in terms of actors, scale, diversity and location in urban areas and their surroundings. Especially those policy and planning approaches are promising, that integrate UPUA into more holistic, cross-sectorial perspective on (local) food systems or ecosystems like urban food policies (food as entrance point) or the green infrastructure and productive landscapes, which make use of the multifunctional character of UPUA as provider of ecosystem services and public goods.

There are manifold benefits from UPUA that justified a more targeted consideration in policies and supportive intervention mechanisms. For the future development of policies that aim at particularly addressing UPUA it is however important to emphasize the fact that the specific location where UPUA produces food production and provides services is undergoing rapid and strong land use changes creating pressures, that do not occur in rural regions. The new, more diverse and more explicitly expressed societal demands on UPUA typical for the urbanised areas make it even more difficult to match food and services supply and demand. Here the intervention logic should take a starting point and make use of governance approaches that integrate sectorial boundaries and responsibilities and activities of administration, stakeholders and civil society. This report makes suggestions for appropriate policy levers and accompanying measures.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/617-468

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