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Urban Farming: Beneficial or Detrimental?

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In 2016, the UN estimated that 54% of people worldwide lived in urban areas and 68% of the world population are projected to live in urban areas by 2050 [1]. Ultimately, this pushes urban farming to become the peak of agriculture. Urban farming refers to planting and growing plants and rearing animals within the city. It brings many benefits such as creating an opportunity to improve food security in the city, improving the city's environment, and creating awareness about sustainability through urban farming. Though, to achieve this, there are some hurdles to overcome including lack of space, pollution risks, and legal and policy framework set by the government to allow urban farming.


Pros

Food Security and Health

Urban farming is a way to improve food security by providing a more efficient way of producing fresh food. Usually, produce consumed on a daily basis is received from a farm fairly far away so the use of preservatives and pesticides is often the case. When urban farming exists, the reduced amount of transportation will not only help increase the shelf life of fresh produce without adding any preservatives and pesticides, but also have benefits for the city's health [2]. The availability of fresh food means an increase in the consumption of fresh produce and a reduction in the consumption of processed food which leads to an improved quality of life [3].


Farmer's Market
Farm to Table

Beneficial for the City's Environment

Urban farming helps improve the biodiversity of the ecosystem in the city. With a diverse ecosystem, there will be an improvement in air quality in the city and help reduce Urban Heat Island, where urban areas tend to have a higher heat level than rural areas [4]. Chemical use will also be reduced since the use of pesticides and preservatives will decrease substantially. Carbon footprints in the city will lessen with the increase of urban farming since product transportation is reduced.

Creating Awareness

An awareness about the environment is needed to create a future where life still exists. Urban farming helps create that environmental awareness by engaging citizens in the food system and linking them to local farmers in the city. Also, it creates job opportunities, training, and education for the citizens [3].


Woman holding a sign spreading awareness
Spreading Awareness

 
 


Cons

Lack of Space

Big cities in urban areas usually have a dense population, due to housing and commercial buildings leaving barely any space for urban farming. Lands in the city also cost more and will limit the profits gained. With that in mind, many endeavors have been done to get over the space problem such as the innovation of vertical farming [3].


Pollution Risks

Soil in the city is likely to be polluted by various avenues in the city and is highly contaminated so new soil will be needed to provide the base for urban farming. The city's water supply could also be contaminated by waterborne diseases, chemical, and bacterial contamination caused by urban farming. This can create an outbreak of diseases such as dysentery, cholera, salmonella and other diseases [2]. Farmers in the urban farming industry may also still use chemicals and pesticides which could increase the pollution level in the city.


Foggy city skyline caused by air pollution
Increasing Pollution in the World

Legal and Policy Framework

As of right now, policies on urban farming are still lacking, vague and unclear. Also, agricultural production from urban farming is not regulated yet. There will be a lack of marketing infrastructures which will limit the goal of farm to table [5]. Several questions that may arise include:

  • Are all lands allowed to be used as a place of agriculture or is that land already devoted to building purposes?

  • How will the tax be for urban farmed products?


In conclusion, urban farming creates an opportunity for improving security, sustainability, and mind awareness towards the environment, but it's not easy to implement. It has hurdles to overcome such as lack of space, pollution risks, and on the administrative side, difficult legal and policy frameworks. This creates a conundrum of will urban farming be beneficial or detrimental?

 

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