Because of increasing violent acts in the 1950s, Colombian peasants began migrating to the cities, bringing with them their knowledge of how to cultivate, harvest, and utilize even a small portion of land. Thus, as part of a government initiative and a means for them to continue with their livelihoods, they began to install little orchards in their patios and outdoor spaces.
In the ’50s, 40% of Colombians lived in the cities. By 2005, 75% were living in the cities. In this following years, more families had experienced the positive impact of having their own small crops or animals at home, which provided them with naturally grown, low cost food and helped to conserve their heritage. Here is where the urban agriculture started to be more useful for households with low incomes especially.
The FAO defines urban agriculture as the growing of plants within and around cities, providing food from a variety of agricultural crops such as grains, vegetables, and fruits as well as the raising of animals, for example, goats, rabbits, cattle, and additionally, other non-food items like medicinal and aromatic herbs.
This type of new agriculture has many social, economic, cultural, and environmental benefits for societies, however in some developing countries, such as Colombia, the support of the government is one of the key things necessary to be able to carry out these projects successfully and improve the wellbeing of thousands of people at risk of not being able to afford food otherwise. It is really interesting to see how in the last year, urban agriculture has been largely driven by the mayors of big cities as a strategy for tackling malnutrition in children and improving the nutritional intake of the less privileged households.
In the ’90s, more than 50% of Colombians were below the poverty line with the economic crisis having a heavy impact on the income of the most vulnerable. In 2004, the government launched a project called ‘Bogota without hunger’ of urban agriculture- communitarian and family projects. On a worldwide level, urban agriculture is practised by 800 million people. In Bogota, 625.000 people benefited from this programme with a reduction of 30% in the prevalence of malnutrition. Beneficiaries stated that through urban orchards and crops, they have been able to spend less money on food and, if they harvest enough, they can sell food products to their neighbours, which is helpful for their household’s economy. They feel less uncertain about not knowing where their next meal is coming from. Also, they have access to healthier products because they do not use pesticides and the fertilisers used, such as fruit peels and eggshells, are natural. Also, by producing their own food, they could have greater variety in their diets, either producing a wide variety of produce or exchanging crops with each harvest year, so there is a notable increase in the intake of fruits and vegetables. As we can see, the major benefits are related primarily to health and food security, however there are more benefits such as:
The inclusion of peasants, women, and the elderly has been another benefit of urban agriculture. They have also been involved in the training process given by the Bogotá City Hall. With the communitarian crops, all the people are working together with the same result. The generation of knowledge increases the probability of people that know how to be part of these projects and their willingness. The ideal objective is that everyone could have the knowledge and could implement this, not solely the beneficiaries of the projects.
After having the knowledge and people aware of the enormous benefits, the capacities are already created and are more likely to endure. As the costs are quite low, people hopefully will enjoy getting fresh food and taking part in the relaxed activity. Urban agriculture boosts economic and social development within communities, as can be seen in poor communities in countries such as Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Tanzania, and Kenya. Although it is difficult to achieve self-sufficiency and very productive urban agriculture, its success might be based on the initiative required to continue work on the project and the ability to take into consideration the lessons learnt.
Urban agriculture projects usually are environmentally friendly. They tend to use recycled materials such as pots and involve innovative solid waste mechanisms for composting and the rainwater for irrigation. Besides, the education received is according to environmental principles which guarantee the conservation of agricultural practices, variety of seeds, and care for the environment. Through this, people are more aware of the environmental crisis, climate change, and little action needed to take to prevent more damage for our planet.
Well- Being: Urban lifestyles can be really stressful for households that have to work quite hard to supply their basic needs, taking into account the high price of living in a city such as Bogota or Medellin, which requires one to spend money on transportation, high rents, food, and others. Urban agriculture is generally seen as leisure time after a long workday. Some people use as a recreational activity too and it is recommended as a good activity for people with some kinds of mental health problems. Also, it contributes to the strengthening the social fabric and improves domestic and community life.
Future Scenarios in Colombia:
There are multiple scenarios for urban agriculture, depending on the context and geographic location of the country being discussed.
However, despite the breakthrough in urban agriculture in Colombia, further work is needed for the successful implementation of the programme and for increasing the awareness of its advantages for the well being of society. Building supportive networks might help to spread the knowledge and encourage people towards the practice and support to urban agriculture. Finally, with Colombia being a tropical country, it has the great advantage of producing many different types of fruits especially, thus thousands of household have the possibility of benefitting from these types of agricultural projects.