JPI Urban Europe SUGI - Urbanising in Place

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


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.


10 25 50
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