Urban agriculture in the Gauteng City-Region’s green infrastructure network

As cities in developing countries contend with the challenges of urbanisation, they need to rethink the traditional modes of urban planning and development. Part of this logic is the need to cater for growing populations without compromising urban environments or social development. A green infrastructure approach can help meet infrastructure and service needs while ensuring the proper functioning of natural ecological systems. As part of the green infrastructure network, urban agriculture can create multifunctional green assets in the form of urban farms and food gardens. When planned accordingly, urban agriculture can contribute to addressing a range of issues in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR).

The aim of this occasional paper is to gain a better understanding of urban agriculture within the green infrastructure network in the City of Johannesburg and to identify the range of ecosystem services that could be delivered when maintaining and investing in these assets. The analysis in this paper adopts a multi-method approach to (1) identify the interlinkages between urban agriculture and social, economic and environmental systems in the City of Johannesburg; (2) validate these critical interlinkages with stakeholder input and ground-level experience of urban agriculture; and (3) visualise these interlinkages through a spatial analysis of food gardens in the City of Johannesburg.

This paper builds the argument that urban agriculture is a multifunctional element of the green infrastructure network in the GCR. It is worth maintaining and investing in food gardens because they contribute to a number of development imperatives in Gauteng. Food gardens may enhance food security by broadening the range of locally produced food sources that improve the potential to help the poor to access fresh food. Productive food gardens may provide economic opportunities, particularly in areas with minimal access to retail outlets and where unemployment is high. Lastly, as a component of a green infrastructure network, food gardens also help strengthen the provision of a range of key ecosystem services. Inter alia they help address climate change and build disaster resilience through flood management and carbon capture.

Of course, urban agriculture will not deal with any of these challenges in their entirety, but within a wider green infrastructure approach, it has the potential to contribute significantly if it can be mainstreamed into municipal development processes. Realising the benefits of green infrastructure hinges on integrating this approach into municipal planning in a way that aims to improve the productivity of ecosystem service delivery. The paper concludes with recommendations for strengthening policy, management, planning and operational support for food gardens in the GCR.


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