Taking context into account in urban agriculture governance: Case studies of Warsaw (Poland) and Ghent (Belgium) | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
November 2016
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This article explores the role of local particularism in relation to the global interest in urban agriculture (UA). A growing movement is advocating UA, but future prospects are limited by variability, unclear expectations, vague responsibilities and leadership in the UA movement. We wonder whether the poor understanding of UA governance is associated with a public discourse and academic literature that too easily adopt the generic and universally claimed benefits. We argue here that uncritical enthusiasm results in an overly instrumental approach to governance of UA with a main focus on stimulating formal (e.g., policy making) and informal advocacy (e.g., civic engagement in UA). We do not deny the importance of formal and informal advocacy in UA development, but rather claim that the potential of UA needs a more nuanced analysis. Study of the interplay between UA advocacy and a city’s contextual characteristics is a worthy pursuit, as it may provide significant and more profound explanations for the divergence observed in UA developments. Case studies performed in Warsaw (Poland) and Ghent (Belgium) serve to illustrate the importance of context. The results suggest that neither case is likely to benefit from a governance strategy that only stimulates greater advocacy and institutional support. The inclusion of city-specific needs, opportunities and pitfalls of UA in the governance strategy can help to move UA toward its full potential. We suggest a policy-making strategy for UA that expands beyond the realm of food production alone. Ultimately, the aim is to steer away from assessing (and critiquing) UA solely against the backdrop of these generic success factors.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Prové, Charlotte
Dessein, Joost
Krom, Michiel de


Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.

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