We all need to eat to ensure our survival and live happy, healthy and productive lives. We have access to an abundance of modern technology and farming processes that deliver food to us more readily than ever before. But not all of us, as 795 million people are nutritionally malnourished each day or approximately 1 in 9 people globally, but with rapid urbanisation and population growth the Earth expected to have 9.6 billion people by 2050. We need to look at new solutions; urban agriculture can assist us with this dilemma.
By Simon Chitre
The Earth today has reached the largest populace in history. In the year 1950 there were around 2.5 billion people, but now in 2015 there are approximately 7.3 billion people. With this rapid growth we have unfortunately reached a population crisis, where many people are homeless, poor and/or hungry. So how do we alleviate these problems and feed all these people with a nutritionally balanced diet?
Currently we rely predominantly on traditional farming techniques to supply us with crops and food needed for civilisation. But with population growth and government policies of increased urbanisation, we have replaced farmland and agricultural land with suburban houses, factories and other infrastructures. Other problems with the increased urbanisation and food, includes the cost of travel including rising petrol prices, longer travel times and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Urban agriculture and farming is a suitable solution but urbanisation is the problem. Solutions to urbanisation need to be found soon, as 1 in 9 people are nutritionally malnourished each day. In Asia, approximately two thirds of the population are the hungriest, and as urbanisation rapidly destroys productive farmland, it is a pressing issue.
Rooftop farming is one type of urban agriculture, which is proving to be successful. In New York City, the Eagle Street Rooftop in Brooklyn is a warehouse roof approximately 557 square metres that provides fresh produce to the North Brooklyn Community. Education programs are also provided, inviting the community to grow and maintain their own produce. This rooftop farm was cost effective because it has a higher conversion rate versus the running cost of a farm.
In 2013 Melbourne launched a revolutionary project, called the 3000 Acres, which aimed to bridge the gap between people who want to grow food, and those who own the land such as local councils or organisations. The idea was formed when it was noticed there were lots of vacant lots and many people who wanted to grow their own food. The project is still around today proving to be very successful, as many more urban agriculture sites have been created across Melbourne.
Food hubs are a similar concept in that they work directly with farmers to assist in the marketing and distribution of their products, making it simpler for local communities and businesses to get their food. They aim to serve the interests of the community and not purely for profit purpose.
Other advantages of urban agriculture are local food production being a source of income for residents, increased health and well being from eating nutritious and more natural food, and reduced rainwater runoff, as water captured will be used in the gardens or stored in water tanks.
So how can you get involved in this revolution and support more sustainable food production? You can attend a farmers market, which is where farmers sell local, seasonal produce to consumers directly. This means the food has not travelled a significant distance to the consumer and is therefore more sustainable.
Within schools, chef Stephanie Alexander has opened hundreds of garden schools around the country aiming to create positive food habits in children for life through education, gardening and cooking. You can volunteer by contacting your local kitchen garden school or education centre directly and asking about volunteering opportunities.
Featured Image by Our Environment; Crop Image by Wikipedia; City Farm Image by Scape.