More of the world’s people live in cities–according to the United Nations by 2050, approximately 70 percent of humans will be urban-dwelling. And at least 800 million people worldwide practice urban agriculture today.Urban agriculture can improve household nutrition, provide additional income, and increase food security. Food purchases can absorb up to 80 percent of a typical urban family’s income, so even a small amount of food grown at home alleviates financial stress.

In researching State of the World 2011, Senior Researcher Danielle Nierenberg visited Nairobi, Kenya where urban farmers are growing vegetables like kale and spinach by filling sacks with soil for sowing seeds. More than 1,000 residents in the area of Kibera use the sacks to grow foods which feed their families daily.

ECHO Farm based in Florida emphasizes the potential of growing food in small spaces by using “garbage” as planting vessels. The organization demonstrates how using old tires, cans, buckets, and even clothing items are ideal in places where space for growing food is limited. Using discarded products for planters not only makes limited-area farming possible—it also promotes recycling.

Rooftop gardens are being use in cities worldwide including Brooklyn, St. Petersburg, San Francisco, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Morocco, and Mexico City. City-planning officials in Tokyo have implemented regulations to cut energy costs and cool urban temperatures: all new buildings in the city must devote at least 20 percent of rooftop space with vegetation.

A These numbers have spurred a generation of urban agriculture research and planning bodies such as Urban Harvest and the Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF). With the number of urban residents increasing causing increased urban sprawl, organizations like these are critical in ensuring that those who rely on urban agriculture for survival have a voice.

Amanda Strickler is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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