Food and Fertilizer Technology Center - publications

Sep. 06, 2007

Urban and Peri-Urban (Upa) Agriculture in the Asian and Pacific Region

Urban and peri-urban agriculture now plays a critical role in sustaining the integrity of the environment, and in contributing significantly to the attainment of food self-reliance in many cities in Asia. By 2020, 40-45 percent of the poor in the region is projected to be concentrated in towns and cities, and UPA is deemed as one of the practical solutions to counter food insecurity, environmental pollution, health risks and the eventual decline in the people's quality of life (CGIAR-Urban Harvest 2006).

There is now an enormous demographic shift taking place in countries worldwide. Half of the world's population is already urban and another 1.5 billion will be living in the cities by 2020. This growth in urbanization poses threats to food security and implies a widespread occurrence of poverty. Along with these threats are problems on environmental pollution, health risks and eventually a decline in the people's quality of life.

Urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) offers great potential for reducing poverty and enhancing food security. In its broad definition, UPA covers a wide range of interests, from traditional agricultural activities associated with production, processing, marketing, distribution, and consumption — to a number of other benefits and services such as recreation and leisure, economic vitality and business entrepreneurship, individual/community health and well-being, landscape beautification, and environmental restoration and remediation that occur within city limits.

What distinguishes UPA from rural agriculture is its proximity to a large number of human settlements. This proximity implies opportunities in terms of providing fresh and high value vegetables and ornamentals and the efficiency in marketing and transport of produce. It also means more employment and increased income for the settlers.

However, while there exist vast opportunities for UPA, the risks that go along with it cannot be underestimated. The fact that it is close to human settlements already implies unlikely health effects. Inappropriate agriculture practices may affect the stability of urban ecosystems.

UPA is also confronted by a number of complex challenges such as land tenure and land price, start-up costs, access to markets, technical knowledge and skills, seasonal limits of production, sound urban planning, environmental sustainability; and such policy concerns as legal, institutional and credit support, technological and extension services, and social affirmation/promotional activities.

Upa Global Perspectives

The Urban Harvest Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a system-wide initiative on urban and peri-urban agriculture, addresses problems and opportunities in agricultural systems that are intimately bound to urban economy and ecology. Based on some successful case studies implemented by the Urban Harvest Program, following are some recommendations on how to promote urban agriculture in each country:

  • Continue addressing urban food security issues and strengthen the role of agriculture in diverse urban livelihood strategies.
  • Develop productive green spaces or parks and gardens, preferably by the private sector, as population pressure increases.
  • Increase food safety and quality control.
  • Identify and mitigate health risks brought about by UPA practice.
  • Work with policy makers so that agriculture is integrated within urban planning and governance and that it is empowered and recognized as an integral part of cities.

Lessons in Urban Agriculture Development

The development of urbanization and its effects on UPA in Japan was primarily rooted on measures to counteract problems in the expansion of urban areas namely: regulatory or policy measures; and economic measures under the zoning laws. Local government support is important to urban agriculture, especially in providing grants to municipalities for direct sale facilities, citizen's farms, and preservation of rural landscape.

In Korea, urban agriculture includes activities not only in urban areas but also those done by urban dwellers such as visiting rural areas, and experiencing rural and farming life. These include: roof greening; indoor agriculture; weekend farming; and green tourism. With its people-oriented, environment-friendly, and sustainable nature, urban agriculture is considered as beneficial to both urban and rural communities.

In the Philippines, allotment gardens are used to empower urban poor communities. Today, there are five self-sustaining allotment gardens in different areas of Cagayan de Oro City located in the southern part of the country, giving 55 urban poor families access to land for food production. Each allotment garden has its own compost pit where biodegradable wastes are converted into organic fertilizer. After two years of implementation, the gardens have resulted to a 25 percent harvest consumption by families; 20 percent increase in income; and strengthened community values.

In Taiwan, leisure agriculture as a form of UPA is now regarded as a good strategy to promote agricultural transformation and countryside mobilization. It has become a booming service industry aimed to achieve harmonious and balanced functioning of production, life, and ecology. Some types of leisure agriculture in Taiwan are: plantation experience, forest tour, fishing, and educational farmlands.

Country Experiences, Issues and Concerns

Increasing urban population, rapid urbanization and its resulting problems, land use conflict, and declining farming population and labor forces are the common issues in UPA identified by the participating countries during the workshop.

Benefits from UPA. In terms of benefits, UPA is regarded as: ideal for management of open spaces; provides employment and additional source of income; contributes to food security and improved nutrition; contributes to a natural and healthy environment (recycling of resources; lessening of noise, heat, and pollution); improves quality of life and well-being of people (aesthetic benefits, health condition); caters to the leisure needs of residents; improves environment and economy; and strengthens community values.

Constraints and risks in UPA. Some of the constraints in the development of UPA identified by the participating countries includes: limited and declining urban land spaces; less access to and/or availability of land and water; lack of information about market demands, shortages, and prices; heavy metal contamination and other pollutants; declining labor/farming household; waste and wastewater contamination of surface and groundwater; and widening disparity between capital value of farmland and its opportunity price for urban use.

The proximity of agricultural production to crowded, residential areas also poses possible health risks because of environmental pollution and contamination from agricultural wastes, wastewater and inputs.

Recommendations and Future Prospects

Among the policy recommendations identified during the workshop are the need to: integrate policies on urban agriculture into urban planning and governance; and implement risk mitigation measures such as control of industrial pollution of water supply.

In terms of technology transfer, trainings on community building and mobilization, as well as on practical technologies on UPA must be initiated. To promote UPA livelihood and environment-related strategies, recommendations include: development of productive green spaces or parks and gardens; and promotion of leisure agriculture.

Finally, government support was identified as crucial to the growth and development of UPA. As the number of full-time farming households decrease, farms become more and more segregated. This makes collective actions more difficult, as agricultural associations are undermined. Hence, local government support is vital as the driving force in maximizing the benefits from UPA.

Local governance is also vital in terms of expanding peri-urban agriculture to empty lands. Government support is needed in mapping out lands that can be used temporarily for urban agriculture. Coordination among various government agencies is recommended. Likewise, government must address UPA concerns such as the need for research, credit, and extension services.

The visible growth in urban and peri-urban agriculture throughout the world was sparked by the need for effective ways to deal with urban food insecurity, provide improved livelihood opportunities to urban dwellers, protect public health and the environment, and integrate resource management and land use planning. These issues all arise in the context of UPA. Looking forward, there is a need to recognize and understand the dynamic urban landscape and its changes, maintaining a balance between improved food production and environmental integrity, and to develop or streamline modern policy instruments in such a way that a threshold of sustainability can be reached.

International Workshop on Urban/Peri-Urban Agriculture in the Asian and Pacific Region

Held in Tagaytay City, Philippines on May 22-26

No. of countries participating: 8 (Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan ROC, Thailand, Vietnam)

No. of papers presented: 14

No. of participants: 40

Co-sponsor: Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD)

  • For further information, contact:
  • Mr. In-Woo Lee, FFTC Agricultural Economist
  • Ms. Cristina Bejosano-Gloria, FFTC Information Officer

Index of Images

  • Figure 1 Urban and Peri-Urban (Upa) Agriculture

    Figure 1 Urban and Peri-Urban (Upa) Agriculture

  • Figure 2 Weekend Farming <B>(below)</B> and Rooftop Greening <B>(Right)</B> in Korea.

    Figure 2 Weekend Farming <B>(below)</B> and Rooftop Greening <B>(Right)</B> in Korea.

  • Figure 3 Backyard <B>(Left)</B> and Allotment <B>(Above)</B> Gardens in the Philippines.

    Figure 3 Backyard <B>(Left)</B> and Allotment <B>(Above)</B> Gardens in the Philippines.

  • Figure 4 Workshop Participants Visit Upa Production Areas around Tagaytay City, Philippines.<BR>

    Figure 4 Workshop Participants Visit Upa Production Areas around Tagaytay City, Philippines.<BR>

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