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Feeding the cities: is urban agriculture the future of food security?

Urban agriculture Food security

Urban agriculture produces 15 to 20 per cent of the world’s food supply and could play a major role in achieving global food security. Urban agriculture refers to the production of both food and non-food products in urban and peri-urban areas. The growth of urban agriculture is a result of a global increase in migration from rural to urban areas. Urban populations are more vulnerable to food insecurity, as they rely on external sources for their food needs and are thus exposed to greater supply risks. Some commentators suggest, however, that urban agriculture may provide the solution to food security issues in cities. The potential contribution of urban agriculture to food security differs between developed and developing countries. In cities in developed countries, urban agriculture is limited by a lack of space and the absence of economic incentives; however, in the developing world, urban agriculture has considerable potential to improve food security. Key issues, such as urban sprawl, contamination threats and legality, must be addressed for urban farming to have a sustainable future.

Key points

  • In developed countries urban agriculture plays only a minor role in improving the food security of an area. Lack of space and the absence of economic incentives limit increases in crop production.
  • Urban agricultural production constitutes a large proportion of the total food supply in developing cities. Urban farms increase the availability of nutritional food to the urban poor.
  • Production and security of urban crops in developing countries is limited by both the illegality of urban farming and the effects of pollution, which reduce crop yields. Future production levels and the security of urban agriculture are uncertain, due to the encroachment of urban sprawl onto farm lands.
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