Our guest columnist, Luis Felipe Santander, poses how, in the face of the unstoppable metropolitan densification scenario, urban agriculture can emerge as an opportunity not only to recover sites in a state of abandonment and deterioration but also as a device for food production and ecosystem diversification.
Since pre-Hispanic times, agriculture has been a predominant activity in Chile and in neighboring countries. What began as a family practice and community ritual was later transformed into an economic good and principal actor in the Industrial Revolution. Together with urban development and the growth of infrastructure networks, agricultural services adapted to the large rural areas, where monocultures were promoted and consequently caused landscape deterioration.
Currently, agriculture must deal not only with poor territorial planning but also with the imminent climatic effects that affect a large part of the territory since, as Rachel Kleinman indicated, “we are no longer using the term ‘drought,’ and now we call it the new reality”(1).
(1) Rachel Kleinman, “No More Drought: It’s a Permanent Dry,” Age (7 Sept. 2007).
Since urban gardens can be up to fifteen times more productive than rural areas by reducing transport, packaging and storage costs (2), this potential scenario of a new urban agriculture represents a new market that operates directly with the community and its inhabitants, not only as a system of supply and use of land but also as a connective landscape element. This is how progressively the new private and public garden-farms have been forming a productive, ecological and dynamic network. Then, in the face of the inevitable densification of cities, it seems necessary to accommodate the design and implementation of these garden-farm areas within new real estate developments. Without going any further, cities like San Francisco and Washington are encouraging homeowners to cultivate their land and create urban agriculture areas incentivized by a significant reduction in taxes (3).
(2) See United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “Food for Cities” (2009).
(3) See San Francisco Urban Agriculture Tax Incentive Program, City of San Francisco, California (2014).
In Chile there is currently an organization that promotes and encourages the development of urban gardens: the Urban Agriculture Network (RAU) (4). However, despite the existence of this body, in Santiago and regions, territorial planning is not yet able to integrate this productive network of food provision that literally returns the design of cities to its roots.
(4) See Red Agricultura Urbana (RAU) <https://www.facebook.com/redagriculturaurbana>.
The opportunity that in the near future the role of the farmer will again play the leading role of a few decades ago can take hold with the creation of a comprehensive and regenerative system defined by a polyculture agriculture, where food is produced, the land is improved, and the ecosystem is diversified. With this opportunity to build a new line of landscape architecture projects, where designers not only plan from theory but from practice, cultivation and harvest can be a solution to many of the current problems of large metropolises and depends on citizens demanding policies that adapt to the new needs of security, health and food.
Luis Felipe Santander Labbé is an Architect from Finis Terrae University (2007) and Permaculture Designer – San Francisco Urban Permaculture Institute (2011).