Urban Agriculture - Learning Through Competition

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Promoting Local Self-Reliance in Fresh Produce and Food Security through Competition
By Sean Masih

Abstract:

With the looming food crisis, globalization, and increased population our food as we know it may be at risk. In the next 20 years the UN has reported that the world's food production will have to increase by 70% to prevent hundreds of millions of people from starving. If we don’t do something to increase our food security and local self-reliance within city communities we may lose all control over our food. Urban agriculture, while not a cure-all, is the most effective and efficient way to combat the factors threatening our food.

Introduction:
Agriculture has had a close relationship with urban society for millennia. About 10,000 years ago in an area in the Near East known as the Fertile Crescent, two very important inventions were made: urbanism and agriculture (Smith 1995). The fact that both urbanization and agriculture developed around the same time period was no coincidence. Prior to the settling of the Fertile Crescent most tribes were nomadic and they relied on whatever food they could obtain easily wherever they went. Because a major settlement needed a steady supply of food, agriculture not only became a way of life but a necessity. This symbiotic relationship between agriculture and urban society has however seen a deep separation in the last two centuries. This major decline can be attributed to many factors such as the population shift from rural to urban areas, the need for valuable space in cities, technological advances in transportation, and most importantly, globalization. Globalization is the unification of the world's economic order through the dissolving of such barriers to international reliance and trade. Because of globalization, more and more countries and cities have been relying on outside sources for their supply of food. Once transportation was revolutionized in the 1800s, more and more cities had the ability to import food from other places and become reliant on these places for their food supply. Only until then did cities do away with urban agriculture and use this space for more buildings, factories, and houses and in the last two centuries the majority of the world's population has migrated to the cities. This also is not a coincidence. One of the first examples of reliance on other countries for food was famously the city of Rome. By the first century A.D Rome was the capital of the largest empire in its time and had a population of about 1 million citizens. Feeding a city that large and in that time period required different methods of acquiring food. The Roman Empire had many farms dedicated to supplying food only to the city of Rome but that wasn’t nearly enough (Smith 1995). Since Rome was near the Mediterranean sea it could import food from other cities along the coast to feed its population daily. This was the only city in its time that had the capital and resources to provide for a population of that size. The reason it is used as an example is because it is very similar to the many American cities today. With this trend only increasing, the United Nations reports that by 2030, 59.9% of the world's population will be living in urban areas, this means that over four billion people will be residing in and around cities (World Urbanization Prospects The 2005 Revision).

Rapid urbanization and globalization combined with the current economic conundrum puts even more pressure on food suppliers and producers to find alternative ways to provide for us. Throughout all of this globalization and streamlining of the acquisition of these resources one thing has remained the same, we our dependence on the natural world for food. Roughly 80% of global trade in food now is controlled by just five multinational corporations (Steel 2008) and because of that many communities have been stripped of their autonomy and self-reliance. In this way, globalization has...
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