Background

Processes of urbanisation tend to marginalise the role of small holders in managing the food-water-energy nexus: farmers and food producing communities are often spatially interstitial, and operate within precarious conditions in which nutrient cycles, energy conservation, water harvest, soil management and food production happen under marginal and residual conditions. Nonetheless, peri-urban areas and the urbanising fringes of metropolitan areas tend to harbour a rich variety of farming practices and there is empirical evidence that urban farmers play a key role as localized and distributed operators of the food-water-energy nexus.

Research questions

‘Urbanizing in place’ will explore how farming and food growing practices on the metropolitan fringe, threatened by an ever expanding urbanisation, may be reimagined and reconfigured within what we call ‘agroecological urbanism’: a model of urbanisation which places food, urban metabolic cycles and an ethics of land stewardship, equality and solidarity at its core. The project will explore the physical and metabolic context, scenarios for economic valorisation and political processes that can enable alternative metabolic capabilities, and the specific practices and configurations that farmers and food growing communities could develop in order to regain control over resources and claim an active role as agroecological urban food-water-energy actors.

Case studies

‘Urbanising in place’ brings together innovative practices from 4 different contexts (Riga, Rosario, Brussels, London) in an international platform aimed at mutual learning and the identification of critical pathways for change.

Rosario (Argentina)

Exploring the use of low tech solutions to adapt to the new strains of changing climatic conditions.
Rosario has an impressive tradition when it comes to urban food production, both on the level of practice and local and regional policy making. This part of the project will specifically focus on (technological) possibilities that may help peri-urban smallholders to better cope with the heightened strain of climate change. The project will focus on the possible introduction of very simple monitoring techniques (water) and low tech renewable energy solutions that can function off grid and in distributed settings.

London (UK)

Linking composting to food growing. Controlling the quality of resources within the waste stream. Giving food growers some level of control over these waste streams.
Qwantum Waste is the lead partner in this exercise. They already claim a position as an innovative solid waste management company focusing in its strategy on integrated ways of handling solid waste in an urban context. Qwantum Waste has a specific composting line, focusing on organic waste, and has the ambition to link up, with this compost line, to food growers. In this project we wish to proceed from a broad understanding of what the role of composting in the metabolic nutrient cycle can be and where to best position the task of Qwantum Waste in relinking production and consumption of food (on what is now conceive of at the waste end of the cycle). We want to see which type of organisations (food growers, other intermediaries, professional farmers, on of site…) could be involved in linking up to the composting activities.

Brussels (Belgium)

Exploring alternative mechanisms to provide access to land for agroecological food growing activities. Linking peri-urban food production to metabolic challenges in the wider metropolitan region.
The simple slogan for this project could be that the horizontal metropolis needs farmers. The distributed settlement patterns around Brussels were traditionally productive. Its production used to be geared (in part) to local consumption. Given the general political economic context that is geared towards larger farms with less farmers, the peri-urban fringe is rapidly losing its farmers. This is not only problematic in terms of the increased carbon footprint caused by bringing food from further away, it makes for an urbanized landscape that loses its productive base. The infrastructure of the horizontal metropolis is largely based on borrowed infrastructure of rural/agricultural origin. The existence, maintenance and reproduction of that infrastructure largely depends on its bioproductive use. In light of the efforts to bring back new forms of food production in this region we want to look both at the farming models and at the links that need to be built to the core urban market (Brussels) which belongs administratively to another political administration that the peri-urban fringe

Riga (Latvia)

Thinking forms of food distribution and food distribution through the perspective of food producing actors, reducing dependency on fully commodified food supply chains.
The project seeks to think alternative pathways drawing on the specific post socialist context in which land assets, and production models as of today still display remnants of collective organization (as well as historically informed resistance against collective models). We are particularly interested in ways of linking food producers and consumers that incorporate the existing informal food exchange networks, proceeding from a more detailed description of the local supply of food that takes these informal networks into account.

Social platform

The (urban) social platform is the ‘brewing pot’ where ‘communities of practice’ and the ‘scientific communities’ engage with co-creation and transdisciplinary work. In a first phase of the project the Social Platform will function as an environment for intervisioning around the 4 case studies. As the project evolves the platform will open up to the international agroecology movement, inviting partners to engage in strategic programming and the construction of political pathways towards the development of an agroecological urbanism.

© SUGI Urbanising in Place
Source header image: Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, www.lukasweb.be – Art in Flanders, foto Hugo Maertens.