Developing a sustainable living may require urban agriculture

Developing a sustainable living may require urban agricultureImagine living in an inner city and buying your vegetables and fruit just moments after they've been harvested. Imagine waking up to the rustic sound of a cock crowing. Imagine your household waste and sewage serving to grow even more food in a highly sustainable way. This is the promising picture painted by the EU-funded Supurbfood project.

"The goal of the Supurbfood project," Han Wiskerke tells, "is to make urban and peri-urban agriculture much more important than it is now." Wiskerke is the coordinator of the project and a professor of rural sociology at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands. He goes on to explain that the project also aims to close the food-waste cycle, to shorten the food supply chains, and to create multifunctional land use in cities.

The results of Supurbfood cannot be quantified just yet since the project will continue until October 2015. But it is clear that promoting urban agriculture is likely to encounter some hurdles. Among them, one of the issues is "legislation, most of all," the coordinator explains, "For instance human excrement is often forbidden as manure in food production; yet it can be a very valuable component of compost."

All the other possible problems can be dealt with. The lack of space, for example, can be solved by growing vegetables, nuts, and fruit in parks. Poultry and small animals can be kept on rooftops, and in petting zoos. And 'greening' a city makes it a nicer place to live in, with cleaner air and more recreational facilities. Multifunctional land use is key according to Wiskerke.

But the implementation of this ambitious plan is not all straightforward. "Pollution, however, is a problem," he admits. "Not so much for air pollution; you can wash that off easily, but pollution of the soil; that needs to be monitored carefully."

Other scientists in the field are generally in favour of the project concept. And they point out that the project's inherent process of international dialogue is one of its crucial and very innovative aspects. In addition, the sharing of experiences and exchange of best practice makes it unique, and the most promising project of its kind.

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