Urban Forest a Holistic Approach in Urban Food Security

Urbanization, the exit of labor from agriculture sector means a decline in the production of agriculture based food. At the same time, the rapid population growth has extra pressure on food system to meet the requirement of adequate nutritious food. Food security is one of the major problems that are associated with urbanization, especially in the global south where the inadequate supply of affordable and nutritious food causing the hidden hunger [1].  As the result micronutrients deficiencies in underdeveloped countries is a  major cause of death especially in children. According to UN-Habitat report, in Africa and Asia, 54 and 64 percent of population will be living in cities by 2050. It means long-term planning is needed to fight against the hidden hunger in urban settlements. But in the global south most of the time the focus of food security strategies is around growing more and more grains that can be used in the production of more energy dense food To meet the requirement food security in underdeveloped countries, deforestation is considered essential to increase the agriculture-based food production. But deforestation is linked with reduced water availability and limited access to firewood that actually reduce the food security.

Food Forest a Holistic Approach:

The second goal of SGDs framework focuses on the elimination of hunger through food security. The food security means people have adequate physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.  According to Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nation (FAO) 2, there are four dimensions of food security framework:

  1. Physical Availability of Food
  2. Economic and Physical Access to Food
  3. Food Utilization
  4. Stability of the other three dimensions over time

The urban food forest is a unique holistic approach that has all four dimensions of food security framework and can help to end the hunger. The malnutrition is a major problem in the concept of food security that not only includes the undernutrition but also overnutrition. The forest food can overcome the issue of malnutrition as well. It contains natural nutrients dense food as compare to agricultural based industrial energy-dense food. Forest food has a full range of food such as nuts, fruits, leaves, mushrooms, honey and wild meat as well. That fulfills the requirement of nutrients essential for healthy human, like Forest animal foods are rich in readily absorbed iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, as well as proteins and fat, and forest leafy vegetables, fruits, and nuts are important for the intake of vitamin A, iron, and calcium. The urban food forestry is most prominent strategies in developed and underdeveloped context. In comparison with agriculture, such forest can play essential to achieve the sustainable environment by regulating water flow, protect soils, control climate. The following picture explains the direct and indirect role of forest in a food system


(Figure1: Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition)

Research shows that the communities who have access to forest-based food have more secured food systems. The comparison between two communities of Tanzania; forest-based food system) and Malawai; deforested food system, the people have more access to diversify nutrient dense diet in Tanzanian community than in Malawi (Powell et al. 2011). The reason behind this is the natural resilience of trees against the extreme weather condition and that provide a safety net during the shortage of crop based food

A Food Forest

A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system, which mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. In an urban setting, the forest can be a small backyard garden or a large size forest that can used to produce food for urban dwellers. It also includes tress on farmland on roadsides and streets, green spaces, and house trees those provide fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These forests can play an important role in the efforts for ending hunger. The tress can be lethal against the extreme weather conditions as well; those wipe out the traditional food crops. The urban food forest is a “perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants”. It is editable ecosystem, a community of mutual benefited plants to supply the food (Jacke &Toensmeier, 2005). This kind of forests is full of high nutrient-dense foods those are self sustain ecosystem and enhance the quality of life. Urban food forest is quite different from the formal rural forest. Rural forests produce more timber products. The urban food forest not only provides the food but also protects and enhances the urban landscape and ecologically diversity of the area.

The typical food forest works in different layers of trees, plants, and bushes. The top layer of tall fruits and nuts trees those allow the light to reach to the other lawyers of the forest. The second layer is composed of the small fruits tress those can be easily pruned that allows the light to reach the other layer under them.


(Figure2: Seven Layers of Urban Food Forest)

The third layer consists shrubs including fruits, flowers and those attract the useful insects like honey bees essential for the reproduction of plants. The herbs are the fourth layer that includes vegetables, herbs, crops, and plants those help to maintain the soil nutrients essential for the growth of plants. The ground cover is the fifth layer in the urban food forest consist low ground food plants. The six is vine layer of climbing plants and the last is root layer includes garlic, onion, and potato etc. These layers not only provide the food only but a complete ecosystem that is essential for the growth of a sustainable food or editable forest.

Finally, If we really want to see our future cities more sustainable and food secure, we need to change our urban landscape. We need to aware and engage local communities in urban food forest initiatives. The community engagement in such initiatives not also ensure the security and sustainable food system but also benefit local resident in developing sense of community increase social contacts