Agriculture is not an urban issue.

How can we move beyond this conversation stopper?

Fighting the struggle of housing and growing rights together

A People’s Land Policy, Land Justice Alliance Network

The Land Justice Network is a coalition of grassroots actors in the UK that have started up a series of remarkable initiatives around a people-driven land reform, placing principles of the equitable sharing of land at the core. One of the notable things about the coalition of partners behind the Land Justice Network is that it not only includes groups mobilising around access to land for growers and land workers but also groups that are fighting for housing rights, and more generally groups focussing on decolonisation. The People's Land Policy is a shared mission statement referring to the People's Food Policy by the Land Workers Alliance. The strength of the coalition is the clear desire to fight the various struggles over land together. Where current capital-driven processes of urbanisation play various forms of land use against each other, using bidding rent and market competition as the determining factor in allocating land, the People’s Land Policy inspires us to imagine an agroecological urbanism where the use value of soils becomes a leading factor, and where the reproduction both of the right to live and to cultivate are secured together rather than in competition.

Building Block: Productive Housing Estate

Growing space as planning requirements

La Ferme du Chant des Cailles, Brussels

Cueillette des Pommes à la cité‐jardin – Le Logis-Floréal À Watermael-Boitsfort, 1940

The Ferme du Chant des Cailles is a collective urban agricultural project initiated by farmers together with local citizens in a residential neighbourhood in Watermael-Boisfort, in the south-east of Brussels. The land on which the farm was established lies in the heart of the Logis Floréal, a garden suburb developed in the 1920’s designed by Louis Vanderswaelmen. The land was reserved in the original plan for a farm that was never built, but the settlement included individual productive gardens, productive fruit trees in the public domain and an orchard. The pressing need for new social housing in Brussels led the authorities to consider the land historically reserved as a productive space for the construction of 250 additional housing units, especially since the social housing company was owner of the land. However, the mobilisation of local citizens put the process of the development project on hold. The coalition of citizens even mapped vacancies in the neighbourhood, questioning the need for new development. What started with the idea of repurposing an abandoned field developed into a process of reappropriation of a historical urban pattern, relinking housing and food production, underlining the need for new planning tools and processes that consider community-build food production as equally valuable on the urban agenda as housing, schools or playgrounds.

Historical plan of Louis Vanderswaelmen with the historical productive land that today hosts the Fermes du Chants des Cailles highlighted

Building Block: Productive Housing Estate

A translocal network of agroecologists

Red de municipios por la agroecología

The Red de municipios por la agroecología is uniting several Spanish municipalities and local organisations since 2017 with the mission to link social services with food policies. The approach is translocal as it tries to build mutual support between local authorities. The network engages in a wide range of support and facilitations activities. Two members of each city are compensated to attend the monthly meetings where they share experiences, guaranteeing the active participation of the municipalities. There is a technical advisory team supporting the network, composed of all (former) farmers or pastoralists that have followed an agroecological training. They help out the public servants, for whom agriculture is traditionally not part of their standard policy tasks and mediate between different authorities on what could be feasible or desirable from a technical agroecological perspective. As such, they are able to link policy with concrete action; they coordinate wholesale markets geared towards more local produce, they set up farmstarts, small processing centres, composting infrastructure, mobile slaughterhouses and a local labelling system. Parallelly, they continue to develop the capacity building of network attendees by organising monthly webinars and offering customised programmes depending on the size, history and capacity of the city. While the interest in agroecology in the bigger cities (and their environmental departments) usually stem from both the organisation of their environmental goals as well as the upgrade of new and existing community gardens, the old Arab cities in Spain have an active agricultural department and are looking for technical insights, since they still have productive lands within their municipal boundary. In smaller towns, the technical team collaborates more with economic departments and positions agroecology as an experiment for alternative rural development. By not focussing directly on physical infrastructure but rather on training and capacity building within administrations and mediating between different policy sectors, the network is able to lobby local policy from a very concrete, action-based perspective that transcends political tenures.

Spaces for collaboration

Atelier Groot-Eiland

Atelier Groot Eiland is a social economy organisation committed to giving people a better chance on the labour market and has been active in Molenbeek, Brussels for over 40 years. The non-profit offers work experience, pre-training, employment support and job support. The organisation has grown to become a collection of mini-companies, offering training in a wide range of skills: the Bel Mundo and RestoBEL restaurants, the Bel'O sandwich shop, the Klimop carpentry shop, the Bel Akker urban vegetable gardens and pick-your-own farms, The Food Hub organic shop, the creative workshop and the bakery of ArtiZan, each have their own employees and customers, and thus respond to the needs of different neighbourhoods in Brussels. The organisation is particularly investing in connecting to the surrounding neighbourhood and actively strengthening a local Molenbeek identity – leading to a lovely mix of French and Dutch in their social media. More recently, Atelier Groot-Eiland has started a 1.5 hectare self-picking CSA project in the peri-urban area and is more and more approached by urban actors and local authorities to actively participate in urban redevelopments, acting as a socially driven and sustainable placemaker.

Building Block: Territorial Food Hub

No agroecology without decolonisation

Granville Community Kitchen
“It is that big ecology of care, I would also say it’s a queering ecology. And by queer I mean about disrupting and dismantling white European straight male frameworks and contexts. And so we are decolonial in practice, and we go beyond just being feminists, as I said we’re queer and spiritual because a lot of us are coming with spiritual practices and beliefs. And so for us that solidarity is collective in arriving at collective understanding and values and each others offering something.”

Deirdre Woods, Granville Community Kitchen

The foundations of the modern agri-food system are in European colonial projects that have violently tried to destroy indigenous land, land practices and foodways. And so disrupting and dismantling white-supremacist, patriarchal and euro-centric knowledge structures is integral to forming agroecological economies and localised distribution networks. In terms of developing urban agroecologies, this includes the binaries of human vs. nature, urban vs. rural that underlie urban hegemonies and limit the ways of imagining and developing cities as agroecological places. Practices that support the collapsing of historical binaries, through processes of political contextualisation of urban life, re-humanisation, and positive identity formation, are critical to developing urban agroecologies.

Building Block: Political Pedagogies