JPI Urban Europe SUGI - Urbanising in Place

Lead Research Organisation: Coventry University
Department Name: Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resili

Abstract

While a large part of current research on the link between sustainability, ecological practices and ecosystem services (including urban agriculture) is focussed on high-density forms of urbanisation, in this project we take up the important challenge to reflect on loosely-urbanised landscapes on the metropolitan fringe, such as those of suburbs and low density conurbations.
The horizontal metropolis of the peri-urban, which provides the specific context for this project, is confronted with an interesting paradox: agriculture is still largely present in these areas and exists in close proximity to new forms of urban settlement yet hardly entertains any relationship with them. At the same time, the remaining agricultural patterns perform vital open space and ecosystems services which are not valued by the logics of urbanisation. The de-valuing of these ecosystem services poses an ongoing threat to the farming practices that generate them.
Farmers and food growing communities play a crucial role in managing the food-water-energy (FWE) nexus in the metropolitan fringe, but their often operate within precarious conditions in which nutrient cycles, energy conservation, water harvest, soil management and food production happen under marginal and residual conditions.
Contemporary dynamics of urbanization tend to push farmers and food growers out of the city boundaries, displacing food production and resources conservation practices too. Nonetheless, peri-urban areas and the urbanising fringes of metropolitan areas tend to harbour a rich variety of farming practices and there is empirical evidence that urban farmers play a key role as localized and distributed operators of the food-water-energy nexus.
'Urbanising in place' will imagine new ways to bolster the role of food growers in managing the FWE nexus rather than pushing them out. The project will explore how farming and food growing practices on the metropolitan fringe, threatened by an ever expanding urbanisation, may be reimagined and reconfigured within what we call 'agroecological urbanism': a model of urbanisation which places food, urban metabolic cycles and an ethics of land stewardship, equality and solidarity at its core.
The project brings together innovative practices from 4 different contexts (Riga, Rosario, Brussels, London) in an international platform aimed at mutual learning and the identification of critical pathways for change.
The research project will establish a transdisciplinary social platform (UFJ-ESRC 2011) that will act as a co-creation and learning lab that brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, local government actors, national and international NGOs for the mobilisation of technical or policy knowledge, and community stakeholders.

Planned Impact

The focus of this project on the 're-urbanization' of the peri-urban fringe opens up discussions that are of great relevance within a global perspective. Peri-urban, horizontal urbanization defines the bread and butter reality of urbanizing metropolitan areas around the globe.
The project aims to deliver the following impacts:

- Identification of transformative pathways for the riconfiguration of the F-W-E nexus in four local contexts (grassroots arenas in London, Rosario, Riga and Brussels)
- Uptake of innovative models of new actor constellations for a virtuous management of the food-water-energy nexus (policy arena)
- Definition of new forms of urban enterpreneurship, knowlege brokering, technical assistance and urban service provision (business sector)
- Development of new conceptual models for (re)framing the urban food-water-energy nexus from an urban political ecology perspective, and development of an Incubator for an Agroecological Urbanism (academic arena)

These impacts will be delivered through:
1) the process of research, particularly the social platform;
2) the valorisation activities, aimed at gathering feedback and refining the research reports for usability with different communities of practice;
3) the dissemination of research findings to both academics and policy makers;
4) the identification of commercial and not for profit models of urban service delivery that may play an active role in transforming urban resources (waste/nutrients, energy, water) in such a way that they can be tapped into by local food growers.

Given our commitment to collaborative research and the identification of pathways for change, specific measures have been planned to ensure engagement of key actors and the ability of the research to deliver the project. All our partners leading the case studies are already involved with stakeholders and are interested in mobilising these communities to reflect on the specific questions of how to reconfigure the F-W-E nexus in the peri-urban context of the horizontal metropolis.
The activities of the social platform that we aim to build will also be an important opportunity for cross- fertilisation between our case studies, and the cases and other existing networks, and to mobilise the transformational potential of these exchanges.

The Social Platform (months 1-36) is the 'brewing pot' where 'communities of practice' and the 'scientific communities' involved in the project engage with co-creation and transdisciplinary work. The platform starts as a 'project-related' device but it will gradually evolve towards an incubator standing on its own. In this trajectory includes three stages. In the first phase (months 1-9) the social platform will be the context for the first international exchanges of the networks and communities of practice in the local contexts with external partners in discussions that can accelerate and enrich the mapping exercise. In the second phase (10-25) the platform will function as a space for international cross-case intervisioning, confronting partners sharing different experiences while engaging them in a collective learning. The platform will work as transformative device to re-imagine possible alternative configurations of the F-W-E nexus. In the third phase (27-36) the international platform will be shaped to consolidate the collective learning of the various knowledge communities of the project and evolve from an exchange device to an Incubator for an Agroecological Urbanism.

Our roles within international policy and academic communities (Milan Food Policy Pact, AESOP Sustainable Food Planning group, and potentially Urban Europe), will ensure we can disseminate the research results among communities leading pioneering research and action in the field. Specific WPs have been dedicated to the valorisation and dissemination agenda, and will be lead by RUAF, Shared Assets and URBEM.
 
Description This project is half way through its life, and we began to identify some findings. These can be organised around four main themes (partially overlapping):
i) public policy
ii) metabolic practices
iii) politicising trajectories
iv) building blocks of an agroecological urbanism

i) Public policies
- There is a great need to adapt public policies to accommodate the metabolic agency of farmers, especially in a context of changed typologies of activities (i.e. new forms of agricultural activities). Small entrepreneurs looking to operate on the nexus connecting farmers, land recovery and urban waste face a number of problems and obstacles, above all the inflexibility of the planning system.
- the legal protection of soil health - which is a fundamental outcome of virtuous metabolic farming practices - is universally non-existent in planning laws.
- local authorities could play a greater role in coordinating nutrients recovery across the territory (i.e. grass mowing, trees trimmings, etc.), and make it available to periurban farmers
- the city of Rosario in Argentina has developed virtuous coordination between council departments to support the livelihood of marginalised communities through a comprehensive package of measure to enable entrance into agroecological farming circuits, including land recovery, agroecology transitions, access to markets, seed bank coordination, training, technical support, organic fertilisers production and produce transformation and packaging.
- farmers coordination groups are developing alternative models for the management of public land, particularly with regard to soil health preservation and soil nutrients transformation.

ii) metabolic practices
- Farmers tend to see the city exclusively as a market/ and the inhabitants as potential consumers, in this way diminishing the range of metabolic exchange that could be organised (fro example through the collection and transformation of household/business organic waste as farming inputs. This issue should be tacked through farmers training initiatives.
- public land can play an important role for training and coordination of metabolic practices at landscape level.

iii) politicising trajectories
- in a number of contexts farmers or farmers-researchers-city actors coalitions have been organising to develop collective strategies for territorial solidarities around seeds saving, land access, reclaiming the public goods produced through agroecological practices and and the design of sustainable landscape ecologies.

iv) the project is developing a number of typologies of building blocks for an agroecological urbanism. Each block is reflecting on the territorial/spatial, social and political articulation of a range of metabolic practices in peri-urban contexts. these blocks will also be used to exemplify the findings listed at the points i), ii) and iii) above.
Exploitation Route We plan to develop an implementation plan for an community soil clinic, to be funded externally.
We also wish to develop a follow on funding proposal in relation to the legal protection of soils.
We are also co-developing a centre for urban agroecology in Brussels, and an incubator for urban agroecology, building on the experience of the cases in the project.
Part of our current dissemination work is to reach out to relevant existing network of cities, including the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and the Network of Cities for Agroecology.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://urbanisinginplace.org/output-impact/
 
Description This project is still ongoing, however, we can identify two non-academic impacts at this stage. 1) We have taken along a civil servant from the Brussels city region government to our meeting in Rosario (Argentina), and the learning has generated the initiative to set up a centre for urban agroecology in Brussels. The idea was then supported politically and included in the plan of the new government. The research partners in Belgium, with support from other partners from the consortium, are coaching the local authorities in this endeavour, facilitating the coordination of farmers, technical knowledge and city actors (political and technical) around the development of its agenda. 2) Presentation of the project at London City Hall and workshop with influential actors in the organic food movement is building momentum in London around the centrality of agroecology as a virtuous metabolic practice. Civil servants who have attended the workshop in September 2019 have began to think agroecology as part of the development of policy documents for the London greenbelt. At the same time Sustain and the London Food Board, who also attended the workshop in September have followed on with a workshop in February 2020 about agroecology in the urban fringe.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description AGORA workshop JPI Urban Europe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Manten Devriendt (From the project partner Sampling, Riga, Latvia) joined the JPI Urban Europe AGORA workshop hosted by the Latvian Ministry of Education, titled "Unfolding dilemmas in urban public space development and maintenance: Consequences for policy and research and innovation". where he had inspiring discussions and exchanging with peers from all over Europe (plus Canada). The key messages identified in the event will be worked out in a policy document by the JPI team in collaboration with the participants of the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://jpi-urbaneurope.eu/event-calendar/agora-thematic-dialogue-2019/
 
Description Agroecological ambitions in the new Brussels Capital Region's Government Agreement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Based on the experiences at the International Intervisioning Meeting in Rosario, the Brussels team has been discussing with local actors the possibilities of a Centre for Agroecology for Brussels. Some of the collective infrastructure that is being set-up by the Centre in Rosario is in Brussels taken-up by grassroot movements, in particular also within the project of BoerenBruxselPaysans. Together with the Brussels Environment Agency, Architecture Workroom Brussels has organised a workshop with a broad scope of actors from civil society, grassroot movements, government, academics on what a Centre for Agroecology could mean in Brussels.
Read the Brussels Capital Region Government agreement: https://assets.bruzz.be/2019-07/BHG_20190718_NL_0.pdf

The event/ workshop organised by the Brussels team to support the implantation of the 'Centre for Agroecology' in Brussels was the first time that the two main movements depicted in the Brussels research hypothesis, the residualised mixed farmers of the Pajottenland and the new urban farmers, met each other around the question of Agroecology. After an introductory presentation, three parallel tables focused on: (1) Communities of Practice, (2) an Agroecological Programme and (3) the Zavelenberg-Hoogsteyns site in Ganshoren - Koekelberg.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://urbanisinginplace.org/workshop-towards-a-brussels-center-for-agroecology/
 
Description Debate on public land as crucial instrument for urban food policy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Catherine Fierens and Hans Vandermaelen participated in a debate in the city of Ghent about the importance of public land positions for the implementation of a distinctive urban food policy. The debate was organized by Apache, a Belgian news platform, in response to a growing opposition from local actors, including agroecological food producers, against the large-scale sale of public agricultural land.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://vimeo.com/368311814
 
Description Interview for local news platform Rosario Noticias 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The international attention for Rosario's agroecological policy has not escaped the attention of the local press in Rosario. 'Rosario Noticias' interviewed Antonio Lattuca and Raúl Terrile about their participation in the intervisioning workshop in London in September 2019 (see below). They testify about the great international appreciation, both from a political and academic perspective, for over 20 years of pioneering work in Rosario.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.rosarionoticias.gob.ar/page/noticias/id/229353/title/La-Agricultura-Urbana-y-el-Cinturón...
 
Description Presentation at AESOP conference agroecological transitions and food planning 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The UIP research team was represented at the AESOP food planning conference 'Agroecological transitions confronting climate breakdown: Food planning for the postcarbon city' in Madrid. Hans Vandermaelen, Chiara Tornaghi and Michiel Dehaene gave a presentation about how to embed agroecology's soil care principle in an urbanised society. We exchanged experiences on how a strong involvement in the agroecological community can help to accurately identify pathways for an agroecological urbanism.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://aesopsfp.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/aesop-sfp-madrid19-final-program/
 
Description Presentation of the Urbanising in Place project and roundtable with local authorities in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was the opening event of the II international workshop (Intervisioning Rosario) of the Urbanising in Place research project. The event, which was held on the 6th of March 2019 in the Salon Norte of the National University of Rosario, presented the project to the local authorities and the university rector. Local press, postgraduate students and practitioners were present. The aim of the event was to sensitize the local policy makers -which are currently considering wiping away 20 years of groundbreaking policy for the promotion of urban agroecology - to the importance to protect their achievements in time of crisis, as they not only represent benchmarking at international level, but fundamental steps for sustainable, agroecological futures. The press conference was followed by a two hours roundtable with specific questions addressed to the different policy sectors (production, social economy, sustainability, etc.). Outcomes of the event include:
- policy makers from a small town in the peri-urban area of Rosario expressed an interest in joining the programme;
- the re-opening of dialogue between the local team of researchers and civil servants working on the urban agriculture programme in Rosario, and the local politicians. Further debates are about to be tabled by the local team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.lacapital.com.ar/la-ciudad/rosario-vuelve-mostrar-su-experiencia-agricultura-urbana-n174...
 
Description Sensitisation and outreach 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Raúl Terrile published an article on the Argentinian news platform "dos Ambientes", starting from the problems of the current food systems and moving towards the possibilities of agroecological alternatives. 20 years of experience in Rosario illustrates that it is possible to develop and scale up agroecological practices, and to increase access to healthy food.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://dosambientes.net/alimentos/la-agroecologia-una-alternativa-para-una-alimentacion-saludable/
 
Description Stakeholder meeting City Hall London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact As part of the London Intervisioning meeting the London Food Board hosted a policy discussion at London's City Hall for project partners and local policymakers, to explore the potential for peri urban agroecological farming in the city and identify key stakeholders with an interest in engaging with the work of the project. As a result of the meeting initial discussions have been held with the Greater London Authority Green Infrastructure Lead about the potential for a review of the city's greenbelt strategy. We are also working with the London Food Board to hold a joint event to further explore how London can support agroecological farming.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://twitter.com/shared_assets/status/1177499723655049216