Moving Beyond the Pilot Project

IMG_3157The daily decisions urban farmers make do not always align with their beliefs, knowledge, or the larger social-political context.  The discordance between intention and action is something behavioral scientists continue to observe, grapple with, and thoughtfully attempt to explain.  The short answer is that no one makes a decision in a bubble.  There are many factors that go into decision-making—whether one weighs the options carefully with reason and accuracy or whether one relies more on intuition or even impulsiveness.

In “Cities Farming for the Future: Urban Agriculture for Green and Productive Cities,” Rene van Veenhizen summarizes Luc J.A. Mougeot’s definition of urban agriculture: “the distinguishing characteristic of urban agriculture is that it is an integral part of the urban economic, social and ecological system: urban agriculture uses urban resources (land, labour, urban organic wastes, water), produces for urban citizens, is strongly influenced by urban conditions (policies, competition for land, urban markets and prices) and impacts the urban system (effects on urban food security and poverty, ecological and health impacts).”

The more I observe urban agriculture in Delhi, the more this statement of urban agriculture as embedded in the urban system resonates with me.  Last week I talked to my 126th farmer.  In total, I’ve talked to approximately 170 people (mostly families) living and/or working along the Yamuna River floodplain less than 5 km from India Gate in central Delhi.  I have focused on digging deep into one area—one “community.”  Based on my experience so far, there is a lot I can say about urban agriculture.  First, actual food production is only one component of the system.  Second, farmers are not a homogenous group.  And third, it’s complex.

Going forward, this blog will provide snapshots of my observations and experiences of the complexity of urban farming in relation to development pressures, rural-urban migration, sustainable practices, access to resources, livelihood strategies, community engagement, community empowerment, public voice, citizen representation, distribution and urban markets, and on and on.  But first, let me begin with a description of the urban agriculture community…(next post).

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