Agriculture in a green and dynamic urban region

Sylvie Danckaert, Geertrui Cazaux, Leen Bas & Dirk Van Gijseghem

April 2010

The purpose of the ‘Flanders in Action’ project is to steer Flanders to the top five of European regions by 2020. In order to achieve this, a breakthrough towards a green and dynamic urban region is needed. The aim of this study is to examine what the role of agriculture can be within such a green, dynamic urban region, and how that role can be reinforced in the policy and in practice.

Today, peri-urban areas in Flanders are the principal context for rural land use. One quarter of the agricultural area and businesses are located in a city region. Due to the limited possibilities of further scaling-up (pressure from other functions), rising land prices, increased environmental pressure, pressure from residents and a strict licensing policy, agriculture in suburban areas is under pressure. Nevertheless, agriculture in peri-urban areas can also offer quite a few advantages as to local food security, social employment, integration, quality of life, education, leisure activities, waste processing, etc. The research of Van Huylenbroeck et al. (2005) has also shown that in an urbanised environment there is a clear social demand for a more sustainable and multifunctional agriculture. Both cities and rural areas can benefit a lot from each other’s proximity, and this creates opportunities for peri-urban agriculture. Peri-urban agriculture connects cities to their surroundings and can therefore be an acceptable, affordable and effective instrument for sustainable urbanisation. Urban agriculture can be regarded as a transition process in which the speed of the transition is determined by the organisational and institutional framework, the type of business organisation and the farmer’s spirit of enterprise.

The contrast between city and rural area is quite institutionalised in the policy. In the European policy a distinction is made between the European rural policy with a RDP fund and the European territorial cohesion policy with EFRD and ESF resources. In Flanders we can see an urban policy with an associated urban fund and a rural policy with a co-financing fund for rural development. In spatial planning in Flanders there are also planning initiatives that are aimed at demarcating and reinforcing cities and countering new developments in the rural area. The incorrect subdivision between city and rural area also conflicts with the sectoral policy, which is clear from the granting of licences to farmers. Currently, in all areas of policy little account is taken of the many transition areas between cities and rural areas, which are nevertheless characteristic of peri-urban Flanders. However, a look through the documents that offer an insight into the desired policy for the future has shown that the interaction between city, suburban area and rural area is increasingly on the agenda of the different authorities and partners, and that the objectives of urban policy documents overlap with a number of advantages of urban agriculture. From this we can deduce that urban agriculture can contribute to the realisation of urban objectives.

City-country relations can be reinforced by responding to social demands from the city and thus broadening and deepening agriculture. In this study we have tried to demonstrate that an integrated approach in the suburban areas is necessary. To this end, the institutional framework must be adapted and agriculture and horticulture must be made acceptable again in the urban area. A coherent policy is a required. We need a made-to-measure strategy and we can invest in cooperation and knowledge exchange and reinforce the structures (distribution, marketing, networking). Political commitment is also essential. This commitment will only exist once city dwellers consider agriculture as a necessary element in the sustainable development of cities. To reach that point, additional communication and awareness campaigns are necessary. We need to create emotional involvement; farmers and city dwellers must get back in touch with one another. Making existing initiatives visible and supporting them can help start up new initiatives. We should also look for new sources of financing to keep agriculture near urban areas affordable.

These recommendations can contribute, on the one hand, to the recognition of the role of agriculture in a green and dynamic urban region and, on the other hand, to the consideration of agriculture as a real option, from an urban perspective, to help realise the breakthrough.

Original version:



Danckaert S., Cazaux G., Bas L. & Van Gijseghem D. (2010)
Landbouw in een groen en dynamisch stedengewest
Departement Landbouw en Visserij, afdeling Monitoring en Studie, Brussel.



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