Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Urban Agriculture Magazine Call For Contributions

The Urban Agriculture Magazine

No. 11: Access to Land for Urban Agriculture: November 2003

No. 12: Gender in Urban Agriculture: January 2004

The Urban Agriculture Magazine (UA Magazine) is published three times a year on the RUAF-website ( and in hardcopy version. This English version is translated in Spanish, French, Arabic and Chinese. The UA Magazine facilitates sharing of information on the impacts of urban agriculture, promotes the analysis and debate on critical issues for the development of the sector, and the publication of "best" or "good" or even "bad" practices in urban agriculture. The UA Magazine welcomes contributions on new initiatives at individual, neighbourhood, city and national levels. Attention is given to the technological aspects, as well as to socio-economic, institutional and policy aspects of sustainable urban food production and distribution systems. Although articles on any related issue is welcome, each UA Magazine focuses on a selected theme. The two forthcoming issues focus on

No. 11: Access to Land for Urban Agriculture: November 2003
No. 12: Gender in Urban Agriculture: January 2004

You are requested to submit your article before September 1, 2003.

As discussed in earlier issues of the UA-Magazine, urbanisation and migration increase the pressure on the scarce urban land and other natural resources in the city. Access to land is of importance to poor urban families that already have taken up urban agriculture as part of their survival strategy in the city. These people, whether newly migrated, or already in the city for a long time, practice urban agriculture often next to other economic activities, in their back yards or on field plots that are owned or formally rented. Most of them do not own the plots, but use vacant public or private land, tolerated, by the municipality, on which they grow only quick-yielding seasonal crops and avoid necessary investments for fear for eviction. On the other hand there are poor inhabitants who would take up urban agriculture for a living if they knew how to get access to land. Again, from another angle, many cities in developing countries own a lot of land, many of which is unused open space, which is difficult to make productive.

We welcome your contributions to this issue of the UA-Magazine, which describe the relation between urban agriculture and access to land (and other natural resources) in and around the city. If information is available, please describe and discuss experiences of facilitating access to land for urban agriculture and give suggestions for the necessary policy support and adequate policy support measures. Please find some suggestions below.

An increasing number of cities and countries are including urban agriculture in their strategies and programmes to reduce urban poverty and enhance urban food security. The last few years, various Municipalities and local development organisations have been exploring a diversity of strategies to enhance access of the urban poor to land for agricultural activities. Some of these strategies were directed at poor urban households in general, others especially focussed on female-headed households, or recent immigrants without sources of income, or families with AIDS/HIV problems or disabled persons.

These strategies were employed to:
¯ facilitate and/or secure access of the resource poor (or one of the specified groups) to urban land for agricultural use in order to enhance urban food security and income generation;
¯ facilitate the integration of the urban poor in the urban in the urban socio-economic system and to enhance self-reliance and micro-entreprise development;
¯ encourage civic/community participation in urban land and environmental management

Two main situations or target groups can be distinguished on which strategies are focused to enhance urban agriculture in relation to access land:

Poor urban families that already have taken up urban agriculture as part of their survival strategy. Most of them do not own the plots, but use vacant public or private land like roadsides, riverbanks, along railroads, buffer zones, etc. User rights are minimal and the use of such areas is transitional. Here the attention focuses on seeking ways that enable to accept urban agriculture as a legitimate form of urban land use and the inclusion of urban agriculture in urban zonification and strategic urban development plans. Also measures that contribute to making the user rights of the urban farmers more secure e.g. by providing temporary permits (under certain conditions regarding the farm management). For the very poor, even short-term tenure improvements can be a great advantage. When farming is taking place in a location where such practices are less desirable, farmers may be provided access to an alternative location, with better conditions.

Urban inhabitants without access to land that are in need of alternative sources of subsistence and income but have not taken up farming. Many of the urban poor would take up urban agriculture for a living if they knew how to get access to land. Many cities in developing countries own a lot of land, many of which is unused open space: e.g. land earmarked for industry, infrastructure or housing but not yet developed, unused private land, public or semi-public open spaces like ground of hospitals, schools, military centres, etc., or barren land that actually should a park (and often used as illegal waste deposits), former Municipal dump areas or vacant industrial areas. Here the attention would focus on creating access for the urban poor to the available open spaces. Municipalities are experimenting with strategies like detecting available open spaces by G.I.S, leasing Municipal land to (groups of) urban poor for periods between 2 and 20 years, creating community gardens on former garbage dumps, forcing speculating private owners to lease vacant land to urban farmers, stimulating enterprises, schools and hospitals to do so too, creation of a land bank for selling or leasing land for agriculture.

The abovementioned strategies are often combined with provision of technical advice, access to irrigation water, credit services and creation of farmers markets.

Some of the difficulties that Municipalities encounter when applying the mentioned strategies, is that land redistribution is politically complex. There are often different systems of legislation relating to land, and different forms of tenure, co-existing in the same city, or between an urban area and its surroundings. Often there are a large number of institutional actors, varying in size and legal status, that have -sometimes overlapping jurisdiction- over urban land, that further limit the capacity of city authorities to regulate urban land use. Rights over land cannot be isolated from packages of rights in general. Access rules and procedures for land registration are often highly complex and bureaucratic. Other challenges in translating policy intentions, regarding facilitating access to land for urban agriculture, into effective municipal bylaws, norms and regulations is to remain financially sustainable and easy to control and maintain without major externalities. Especially in the South there are few good examples of such municipal laws, norms and regulations facilitating /regulating urban agriculture.

RUAF is also organising an Electronic Conference on the issue, under the theme: ãRegulating agricultural land use in the city area, enhancing access to urban land and water for the urban poorä, which will be held from September 22 - October 3, 2003. Contributions received for the UA-Magazine will also be used as an input to this Conference.

The objectives of this Electronic Conference are: to share and discuss local experiences on alternative strategies to enhance access of the urban poor to land within the City boundaries for food production; and to share and discuss local experiences with the development and application of Municipal bylaws, norms and regulations regarding (access to land for) urban agriculture.

The E-mail discussion will be implemented two times ten days. During the first period the focus will be on the inventory and analysis of the strategies used to promote access to land, while in the second period the focus will be on the development of adequate laws, norms and regulations. After each period a summary will be made, which will be available at

NO. 12 Gender: January 2004

You are requested to submit your article before November 1, 2003.

In many cities the large majority of the urban farmers are women (in average around 65%). In most cases it is the woman who is responsible for household food security.

Urban farming is a viable alternative to wage labour for women who lack access to formal employment due to limited education and training. When the fields are close to the house, it can easily be combined with other tasks. Urban agriculture can be undertaken with relative low capital, technology and inputs attainable and affordable for women but it may motivate women to engage in small scale food processing and marketing and other more profitable UA-micro enterprises. Cases of women in urban households earning more from food production than their husbands from a formal job are not unusual. The ownership of animals and/or independent cash income may strengthen her social position within the household and the community. On the negative side, we see womenâs problems concerning limited access to land, the large amount of labour they have to put in, limited control over the benefits of the cultivation, limited access to productive inputs, credit and technical information, a/o.

In several articles in past issues of the UA Magazine the issue of gender has been touched (articles to mention are Hvorka (no.5), Talukder (no.5), Angeles (no.6), and Kiguli (in no. 10) but rarely the focus was specifically on gender issues in urban agriculture as such.

In issue no. 12 we welcome contributions that specifically deal with gender in urban agriculture. Such articles may discuss concepts and methodologies apt for analysis and planning of gender affirmative actions in urban agriculture or analyse the positive (advantages, potentials) and the negative (disadvantages, risks) impacts of (certain types of) urban agriculture for women under a given conditions, differentiating between practical versus strategic interests of women.

We also welcome cases and discussion on key issues on gender in urban agriculture like the following: á The division of labour in urban households involved in farming activities, related to the division of labour in agriculture as well as in relation household (reproductive) tasks and non-agricultural income earning activities. Often the division of labour in agriculture is also linked with differences that exist between men and women with regard to their knowledge on e.g. cultivation practices, the use of certain technologies.
á The access to and the control over the productive resources between male and female members of the farmhousehold, like land, water, inputs, credit, contacts, information, membership of organisations, etc. and the control over the benefits of the agricultural activities.
á Closely related to the above: decision making power of women at the level of farm household and at neighbourhood level.

Articles that discuss effective strategies and methods to mainstream gender in urban agriculture are most welcome: the integration e gender in municipal policies on urban agriculture, in diagnosis and planning activities, in research and technology development, in training and extension programmes, in credit institutions, a.o.

You and/or your colleague(s) are invited to contribute an article to these issues of the Urban Agriculture Magazine. Your contribution should give a clear description of the experiences gained, address the policy implications of your experiences and include recommendations for local policy makers and planners. Articles should be written in such a way that those working with farmers could readily understand them.

We would like to receive articles of up to 2500 words long (This is about 4-5 pages A4 and 3 pages in the UA Magazine). Articles should preferably be accompanied by illustrations (digital if possible: jpg format of good resolution) and not more than 10 references. The availability of a good abstract is appreciated.

If you are interested in writing an article, or want to share other information, please send us your contribution as soon as possible, but not later than the mentioned deadlines. If you know anyone else who might be willing to contribute, please pass on this call for contributions or let us know. Articles will be examined for selection by the editorial team consisting of the RUAF-editor (RenŽ van Veenhuizen) with the RUAF Partners.

The UA-Magazine will also include reviews of recent literature and a section on upcoming events. We therefore also welcome any information on recent publications and videos, information on workshops, training courses, conferences, as well as information on relevant journals, weblinks, networks, etc.

The Editor of Urban Agriculture Magazine RUAF
P.O. Box 64, 3830 AB Leusden, The Netherlands or
Tel: + 31 33 4326000/39
Fax: + 31 33 4940791

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Revised Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture