Urban farming: alternative agriculture

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More and more citizens’ communities are being set to create alternative development models. This trend is being fostered by the large-scale spread of new media, making information available to anyone who is interested in just a few clicks. Some of these communities are comprehensive initiatives. They encourage the sharing of experiences between members, help pool means of communication, supply assistance and advice to new participants, help raise visibility with public officials, defend the interests of their members and, in some cases, help raise the necessary awareness of the changes that are part of tomorrow’s world. One example is the urban farming movement, which has taken shape in the US around the need of less wealthy urban dwellers to obtain food more cheaply and thus to be able to emerge from the vicious circle of unemployment.

The movement seeks to help participants set up gardens on abandoned lots, produce ingredients and food in an environmentally friendly manner, enhance biodiversity, raise awareness among both younger and older generations of the challenges in preserving ecosystems, foster personal health and well-being, and bring about long-lasting and sustainable economic systems.

It acts as a platform for addressing urban farming challenges by bringing interested parties into contact with large or small private-sector companies, public-sector institutions, congregations and non-profit associations. The goal is to develop win-win partnerships with these different players.

It also conducts interactive online forums to educate people on the benefits and operating rules of urban farming and, more generally, the long-term challenges of sustainable development and the labour opportunities in the environmental sector.

Will such initiatives develop beyond their current small scale? Do they offer a viable and sustainable response to malnutrition and under-nutrition issues in urban areas? Should cities be redesigned around what were once called ‘worker gardening plots’? Will legislation be needed to combat the real-estate squeeze and free up land for allotments? Are solutions to environmental problems to be found in future ‘micro’-projects (e.g., gardens and small windfarms) or in already existing ‘mega’- projects (nuclear power plants and intensive agriculture)? Does the future belong to decentralisation or concentration? ‘Micro’ or ‘mega’? These are all questions that the politicians of tomorrow cannot ignore.

On another level, what companies are well-placed to tap into the likely increase in trends such as urban farming? What will be the extent of such trends? How large is such a market?

All of these questions are being addressed by the managers of the environmental strategies promoted by BNP Paribas Asset Management.

Alexandre Jeanblanc

Investment Specialist, SRI

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