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Growing food, growing stability: potentials of urban gardens for regenerative development

It is of great importance that we fundamentally transform the way we produce and consume food. Industrial agriculture, whose expansion in recent centuries has been exacerbated by increasing urbanization, has caused numerous negative consequences for people and the environment. It is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, the depletion of our soils, and deforestation, all of which intensify global problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Countries in the global South suffer disproportionately from industrial agriculture and its negative consequences.

One way to counteract these detrimental effects is through urban agriculture. Especially if it follows regenerative approaches, it can become a positive force for people and nature.

What constitutes regenerative urban agriculture? Urban agriculture in general is seen as a way to improve access to fresh food in urban areas, reduce transportation distances and carbon emissions, and promote engagement and education in food systems. Regenerative urban agriculture goes a step further. It is a holistic approach that aims to regenerate the health of urban ecosystems - while producing food. Regenerative urban agriculture focuses on creating healthy soils, promoting biodiversity, and reducing water use. It encourages the use of local resources, such as rainwater and organic waste, to reduce resource use and promote a circular economy. Through such practices and others, it aims to promote the long-term health and resilience of urban systems.

By building food production in the cities themselves and focusing on regenerative farming methods, positive impacts on climate, biodiversity, and society can be achieved.

From an environmental perspective, it offers a wide range of benefits, contributing to a more sustainable and equitable food system while supporting the health of our planet. In particular, this has positive effects on climate change mitigation and biodiversity. These include, for example:

  • Reduction of transport costs and thus of CO2 emissions.

  • Effective, albeit sensitive, CO2 sequestration through the development of humus-rich soils.

  • Reduction in the need for industrially produced products and promotion of the long-term phase-out of unsustainable models of food production, trade, and consumption.

  • Decrease in food waste by enabling the production of fresh fruits and vegetables in urban areas, reducing the need for long-distance transportation and storage.

  • Promoting the circular economy of organic nutrients, which can contribute to soil health and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers. This can help reduce the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture elsewhere, improving soil health in the long term in other regions as well.

  • Enhance biodiversity by establishing much-needed green spaces that provide habitat for animals and insects in cities.

  • Mitigate the heat island effect in cities by providing shade and evapotranspiration, which can cool the environment and reduce energy consumption.

Regenerative urban gardens offer ecological values as well as numerous benefits from a social perspective:

  • Creating access to fresh and nutritious food for urban communities, especially important in areas that suffer from diet-related health problems due to limited access to high-quality food.

  • Improve air quality in urban areas by enhancing the ability of green spaces to remove pollutants from the air.

  • Positive impacts on mental health and well-being by using gardening and working with plants as a form of therapy for people suffering from stress or anxiety. Creating points of reference between people and nature and the opportunity to connect with nature in urban areas.

  • Source of income for individuals and communities. By selling produce or providing services such as garden design or maintenance, people can earn an income and build their skills and knowledge in gardening and gardening.

  • By producing food locally, they can also build community resilience. In the event of disruptions to the global food system due to natural disasters or other events, local food production can provide residents with a reliable source of fresh produce.

Finally, regenerative urban gardens are technically simple, nature-based solutions that can be implemented at the local level with minimal resources. This makes them accessible to a wide range of people, regardless of their socioeconomic status or gardening skills.

Urban food projects, like the ones we support, promote social cohesion and provide meaningful employment opportunities, especially for women who are predominantly responsible for cultivating and maintaining the gardens. By building local urban gardens, we can improve the health and well-being of urban communities and build more sustainable and resilient food systems, while helping to protect the climate and environment.

As one of Gespa e.V.'s current focus areas, we are working to promote the expansion of local food systems with the goal of creating resilient and sustainable communities in our growing cities.


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