Since 1950, the number of people residing in urban areas has increased from 746 million to 3.9 billion. By 2050, according to the United Nations, 66 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. There are opportunities for cities to not only become centers of food production, but also for building greater connections to rural areas. Communities around the world are digging into their urban landscapes and cultivating foodscapes that can provide green space, nutritious food, better accessibility and affordability for healthy food, and increased incomes for farmers. And urban agriculture has a number of side benefits—including bringing communities closer together.According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), nearly 1 billion people worldwide are now engaged in urban agriculture. From Nairobi, Kenya to Brooklyn, New York farmers and eaters are finding ways to green their cities.
Ron Finley, an advocate and activist in the urban agriculture revolution, has been transforming the streets of South L.A. since 2010. Affectionately known as the Gangsta Gardener, Finley’s rebellious introduction into agriculture is explored in the documentary, Can You Dig This. An inspiring story of four unlikely gardeners, the film calls for people in one of America’s most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods, and beyond, to “put down their guns and pick up their shovels.” It chronicles the urban gardening movement taking root in South L.A., which is changing the lives of people living in neighborhoods affected by gang violence and drug activity.
Between April 22-29, organizations around the country will host screenings of the film. On Saturday, April 30th, community farms and gardens, in collaboration with Finley and the Can You Dig This team, will celebrate National PlantSomething Day – a day of action and service that encourages all to get involved in the urban agriculture movement.
In solidarity, Food Tank is highlighting 25 organizations that are helping to green cities around the world.
Abalimi is an urban agriculture and environmental action group located outside of Capetown, South Africa. The organization supports and assists groups and individuals looking to improve their livelihoods through organic farming.
Alternatives’ Feeding Citizenship
A nonprofit organization that promotes social and environmental justice in Montreal, Canada, Alternatives’ Feeding Citizenship is growing healthy food to fuel healthy communities. The project engages the community through horticultural training programs while supporting school and neighborhood gardens.
Beacon Food Forest
Located just 2.5 miles from the Seattle city center, community members, local institutions, and volunteers are coming together to grow a place for education, cultural exchange and recreation. With the multifaceted goal of revitalizing public land, improving public health, and increasing local food security, the group is cultivating a number of vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Redefining what it means to have access to local, organically grown produce, all food is free for the taking.
Black Creek Community Farm
Through youth programing, farmer training, and community workshops, Toronto’s largest urban farm aims to ensure local food security, provide increased economic opportunity for the city’s residents, and create an intergenerational, multicultural place of learning.
Cidades Sem Fome (Cities Without Hunger)
Since 2004, Cidades Sem Fome has been transforming São Paulo, Brazil’s unused and neglected land into community gardens, school gardens, and agricultural greenhouses. Through these efforts, the organization improves diets, encourages social integration of historically marginalized groups, and creates jobs.
Cleveland Crops offers agricultural and culinary training to adults with disabilities in Cleveland, Ohio. Outfitted with season extension techniques, their urban farms remain productive through the long, cold winter months in this former rust belt city.
A nonprofit in Mexico City, Cultiva Ciudad manages a school garden program and assists at-risk youth in societal reintegration through the teaching of urban gardening skills. Additionally, in collaboration with Centro de Autismo Teletón, they operate a therapeutic sensory garden for children on the autism spectrum. Its education program, pollinator garden, herb spiral, and sensory tunnel give children the opportunity to connect with nature.
Fresh and Local
In Mumbai, India Fresh and Local transforms underutilized urban space into edible landscapes. With an emphasis on community integration and organic growing, the organization is advancing India’s urban agriculture movement by maximizing space and engaging youth.
This cooperative based in Freiburg, Germany is made up of 290 members working together to grow and harvest organic produce. They refer to their model as “solidarity agriculture,” which means there is collective ownership and maximal community involvement.
A grassroots organization, Green Grounds educates and supports residents of South L.A. as they transform their lawns into edible landscapes and urban farms.
Green Schools Mumbai
With a focus on educating students, Green Schools Mumbai works to create sustainable kitchen gardens in schools to reconnect children with agriculture. They are working in four schools currently, but hope to expand across the city. The organization also hosts workshops on topics such as composting kitchen waste, maintaining pesticide-free gardens, drip irrigation, recycling water, and organic farming.
Grow Calgary, Canada’s largest urban agricultural farm, is operated by a dedicated group of volunteers. With the goal of providing healthy, local food to all Calgarians, the farm’s output is donated to a community owned and operated food bank.
Thirty-three meters below London’s bustling streets, Growing Underground is using the latest in hydroponic technology to grow pesticide-free produce. In addition to drastically reducing water usage and eliminating the concern of agricultural run-off, this urban endeavor significantly reduces the miles traveled by the city’s favorite salad leaves and microgreens.
Since 2012, a group of farmers have been growing organic produce on a 4,000 square foot rooftop in an industrial neighborhood of Hong Kong. In an effort to rally other urban agriculture supporters, HK Farm frequently curates exhibitions, coordinates community events, leads educational workshops, and collaborates with local schools and businesses.
Keep Growing Detroit
Keep Growing Detroit aims to create food sovereignty in Detroit through urban agriculture programs, including Grown in Detroit, a network of family and youth community gardens throughout Detroit; the Garden Resource Program, which provides participants with garden resources such as seeds and Detroit-grown transplants; and The Plum Street Market Garden, which models appropriately scaled, production-focused urban agriculture, trains urban growers and volunteers, and offers hands-on educational sessions.
The Mazingira Institute provides training and support for urban farmers in Nairobi, Kenya. The NGO has trained about 3,000 urban farmers and organized youth and women’s hubs.
At Mbuyoni Elementary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Regent Estate Senior Women’s Group has helped to establish a garden that engages more than 1,200 students who attend the school. After early morning tilling and tending, crops are harvested and served for lunch in the school’s cafeteria. The project not only addresses malnutrition, but also familiarizes the students with native plants.
An essential component of the International Rescue Committee’s greater efforts to help communities build a secure and sustainable future, New Roots provides recently resettled refugees with the training, tools, and land necessary to grow fruits and vegetables in their new neighborhoods. Present in 22 cities, this initiative is helping families become self-sufficient across the United States.
Not Far From the Tree
Not Far From the Tree, based in Toronto, Canada, mobilizes a team of volunteers to pick fruit trees when a homeowner can’t keep up with the season’s bounty. The harvest is then split equally, with one-third offered to the homeowner, one-third to the volunteer, and one-third delivered by bicycle to a local shelter, food bank, or community kitchen.
Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG)
Located in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, OSBG is an independent alternative high school and sustainability education center. Coupling GED-prep with the tenets of sustainable community development, they seek to empower at-risk youth to make New Orleans the next city that ends hunger.
Pocket City Farms
Pocket City Farms transforms abandoned urban space into productive, organically grown garden plots. They are currently constructing a community learning space that will double as Sydney, Australia’s first urban farm.
Rev Birmingham – The Urban Food Project
According to The Urban Food Project, 88,000 Birmingham, Alabama residents live in a food desert. In an effort to provide the community with fresh, local, healthy food, this project assists corner store owners in the buying, marketing, and selling of fresh, local produce.
Using permaculture principles, Siyakhana has transformed a once unappealing inner city plot of land into a productive vegetable and medicinal herb garden in Johannesburg, South Africa. Additionally, the organization advocates for improved food policy in the country and offers training and work opportunities to the community’s marginalized.
Sucre Association of Urban Producers
In the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, 680 women are now producing pesticide-free vegetables for their families. The remaining produce is sold at market or to a nearby cafe. The association is working toward zero malnutrition and along the way, empowering and uplifting the entire community.
The World in a Garden
A multicultural and educational urban farm in Vancouver, Canada, The World in a Garden strives to engage the community, particularly youth, in the development of a just and local food system. In an effort to ensure fair food around the world, they are currently piloting projects in Costa Rica and India.
Find an urban agriculture project near you, secure tickets to a Can You Dig This screening, or consider hosting a screening at your local theater – Join us in celebrating National #PlantSomething Day on April 30, 2016!
(Danielle Nierenberg is President, Food Tank foodtank.com)