Growing the City: Institutionalizing and Legitimizing Urban Agriculture in Copenhagen, Denmark and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

This is the first posting of SCI’s newly launched Affiliated Researcher Program. Led by Alex Aylett, SCI’s Research Director, the ARP is a collaborative initiative that brings together top-level international graduate students with the projects and expertise of SCI network member cities. Aimed at doctoral or masters students designing research projects focused on urban sustainability, the ARP gives students access to innovative urban sustainability leaders and projects. Following a competitive selection process, successful applicant work with SCI and local project staff to plan and implement their research program.

SCI provides Affiliated Researchers (ARs) with guidance and helps facilitate their research work on the ground. For their part, ARs feed their research back into the SCI network, providing analytical insights into the strengths, weaknesses, and larger context for work going on in SCI member cities. Our first AR is Afton Halloran a former SCI intern now based at the University of Copenhagen. Afton will begin her research on urban agriculture in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) in the new year.

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Growing the City: Institutionalizing and Legitimizing Urban Agriculture in Copenhagen, Denmark and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

In many ways Copenhagen and Dar Es Salaam couldn’t be more different. But there is at least one issue that connects them: urban agriculture.

In both cities I have interviewed urban planners, municipal representatives and urban farmers. Interestingly enough some of the same attitudes about urban agriculture (as seen below) exist in both cities. Their comments show significant disparities in the way in which urban agriculture is viewed within the urban context. With so many competing perceptions of urban agriculture, there is a need for a better understanding of the activity, the rules and regulations that govern and legitimize it , as well as its general acceptance and institutionalization .

Urbanizing Agriculture

In a rapidly urbanising world (Table 1) urban agriculture has become one of many solutions to food insecurity, as well as unemployment, climate change and social cohesion. With over half of the global population living in cities urban areas are gaining significance in relation to the food system. Cities are known as net consumers of resources, but in many cases they too can produce a lot of food themselves.

My research provides some insight into the processes that govern the extent to which urban agriculture exists within the cities of Copenhagen and Dar es Salaam. Rather than compare, this study examines the two cities as separate cases, in order to better understand the local context. Nonetheless, some similarities between the cities have been noted.

Case 1: Dar es Salaam

In the case of Dar es Salaam urban agriculture has always existed within the city and it has increased dramatically over the past forty years. From 1967 to 1991 the number of families engaged in the practice of urban farming grew from 18-67%. Even now the practice still holds great significance. Today, in Tanzania’s six cities, 68 per cent of the urban population still farms the urban landscape. In Dar es Salaam, 90 per cent of all vegetables and 60 per cent of the milk supply in the city has been produced locally.

However, archaic regulations and bylaws have created a difficult environment for urban agriculture. Most access to land is through de facto tenure, which cannot be upheld in a dispute or claim to land title. Thus, most farmers live in a state of uncertainty over the length of their land tenure and they often cultivate on marginal lands. Thus, as many farmers in Dar es Salaam have noted, they are unwilling to invest in the land that they farm. This includes wells, and other physical infrastructure.

Over the past two years Sustainable Cities International (SCI) has been working with the stakeholders involved in urban agriculture in Dar es Salaam. This project has been founded on the idea of legitimising the practice of urban agriculture. In 2010 a baseline survey was conducted which identified the stakeholders and issues that needed to be addressed. These stakeholders were municipal representatives, such as planners and agricultural extension agents, farmers, NGOs and research institutions. Later on the stakeholders were brought together for the first time to carry out action planning. The action planning lead to the formation of municipal strategic plans for urban agriculture, as well as site suitability and environmental assessments. Now SCI is in the process of facilitating the incorporation of these assessments and plans into the Dar es Salaam Master Plan. If successful, land within the city will be zoned for agricultural usage.

Case 2: Copenhagen, Denmark

In Copenhagen, on the other hand, urban agriculture is now just gaining popularity and municipal attention. Although Copenhagen has a history of urban agriculture within the allotment gardens around the city, most of these gardens are no longer used for growing vegetables, and are mostly used as summer homes. Currently, the most common forms of urban agriculture are school gardens and community gardens. Unlike in Dar es Salaam, where urban agriculture is practiced as a livelihood strategy, it is used as mainly a social and environmental initiative in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen also does not have a policy which governs urban agriculture as a land use. Many urban gardens are on sites that are not secured with legal, or de jure, title to the land or space. In many cases urban farmers are invited to use the private urban space due to its current disuse. Such is the case of Prags Have (Prags Garden), situated on the site of a former paint factory; Dyrk Nørrebro, situated on top of a school rooftop; Foreningen Ørestad Urbane Haver (The Association of Ørestad Urban Gardens), located on a site that is slated for future housing development; and KBH Grønt (CPH Greens), currently sits in a parking lot until July 2012.

At a municipal level, a small amount of funding has been provided to help start-up gardens. However, strict regulations over soil pollution restrict the expansion of urban agriculture. These regulations were made in a period of time when urban agriculture was not on the municipal radar, and there has been little pressure to amend them. Additionally, a recent change in government has, as many have noted, removed the former presence of urban agriculture from the municipal governments agenda. One municipal representative noted that since urban agriculture is in its first years in Copenhagen “it is a process, and we [The Municipality of Copenhagen] are keeping on the safe side.”

Shared Challenges North/South

Similar challenges to legitimising and institutionalising urban agriculture exist in both cities such as access to suitable land, land tenure/rights, technical knowledge and training, and financial support. There is also the perception that agriculture is strictly a rural activity. Additionally, both cities also experience soil contamination from heavy industry, as well as from other urban activities.

Although bureaucracy is expected when various levels of government and other stakeholders are involved, Dar es Salaam experiences another level of bureaucracy due to the presence of three separate municipalities, which exist together as the City of Dar er Salaam. Although a network has been created to facilitate dialogue amongst those with urban agriculture projects, Copenhagen still lacks a coordinating body that facilitates the process of legitimising urban agriculture in terms of regulations. However, this could be attributed to the fact that urban agriculture is a relatively new concept within the city.

Preliminary findings

There have been gradual and significant changes in the way urban agriculture is viewed from a municipal standpoint. As more and more people continue to move to urban areas, urban density too will continue to increase, thus it is more practical to address spatial planning issues, such as appropriate zoning, sooner rather than later.

Third party organizations, such as NGOs and other not-for-profits, can contribute to facilitating dialogue between stakeholders. Although slow and tedious, multi-stakeholder processes ensure that all relevant parties are taken into consideration and can help to insure the long-term sustainability of urban agriculture.

Many scholars have noted that the line that divides urban from rural areas is becoming weaker and weaker; The separation is no longer that evident in many cities. Thus, cities can no longer be excluded from their contributions to food security. And, as in the case of Copenhagen, urban agriculture can also contribute to social integration, as well as urban greening. The multifaceted nature of urban agriculture can therefore be a powerful contribution towards achieving municipal goals.

Afton presented these preliminary findings at the Euroleague for Life Sciences (ELLS) Student Conference at the University of Wageningen, Netherlands. The theme of this conference was: Can Agriculture Feed the World? Her presentation won an ELLS Distinguished Fellowship. The Fellowships were established to recognize outstanding students and support their further development while enhancing networking within the affiliated universities.

Afton Halloran is an SCI Affiliated Researcher based in the Department of Agriculture and Ecology at the University of Copenhagen. Her research focuses on urban agriculture, food security, and the barriers that hinder the recognition of urban food production as a legitimate urban activity. In her first “research notes” column for the SCI community, she covers some of her preliminary findings.



About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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3 Responses to Growing the City: Institutionalizing and Legitimizing Urban Agriculture in Copenhagen, Denmark and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

  1. Pingback: SCI Unveils New Research Program | Sustainable Cities International blog

  2. Thanks for this information about urban agriculture in Malmo – the projects look fantastic.

    We’re researching urban agriculture in Europe and are hoping to get some suggestions of projects in Europe in low income neighborhoods.

    If anyone has any suggestions please let us know!

  3. Pingback: Five Cities and the Organizations That are Making Them Green

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