This blog documents research on urban agriculture in Delhi, India.  But it is more than a description of farmers growing food in an urban context.  It is about the challenges, opportunities, and lived experiences of individuals and families making a livelihood on the floodplain of one of the largest megacities in the world.  It is about a growing, thriving city struggling to develop and improve infrastructure for it’s citizens.  It is about the challenges of increasing the sustainability of the city.  And, it is an exploration into the interface between community, economy, and the environment in trying to move toward sustainability.


Newly planted fields with elevated metro rail construction in the background.

The project began with a preliminary pilot study conducted by a team of four researchers at the University of Colorado Denver from the Departments of Health and Behavioral Sciences and Anthropology.  The goal was to begin to understand how food availability and accessibility are being impacted by urbanization.  The team conducted interviews with Delhi farmers and created a detailed description of urban agriculture within and around Delhi (see publications). We documented the type of actors involved, farming locations, products grown, product destination, scale of production, and technology used.  We also explored barriers and benefits unique to farming in an urban–as opposed to rural–context.  Data collection methods included geographic information systems (GIS) mapping, semi-structured interviews with farmers and key informants, participatory mapping, field observation, photography, and videography.


The pilot study evolved into a much more in-depth project in the form of dissertation research by one of the team members Jessica Cook.  She spent an extended period of time in Delhi exploring how farmers’ social networks impact their livelihood adaptation strategies in response to urban development pressures.  Her research site lies in the heart of the city on agricultural land where an elevated metro line is being constructed.  The changing use of land resulted in shifting of homes and loss of crops for some farmers.


Although this project took a bottom-up approach through extensive interviews with farmers and community members, it must be placed in the larger context.  Social equity and community engagement are essential components of sustainable urban planning and development but can be challenging to achieve; this project illustrates challenges through voiced experience.

Acknowledgements: This project was inspired and supported by participation in the Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) and the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (CSIS), a multi-disciplinary, collaborative program.  Jessica Cook was also funded as a 2013-2014 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in Delhi, India.


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