The currently developed cities don’t have protective walls. However, the urban and rural lives are still separate. Residents of urban areas rely on the products manufactured on rural farms.
Urban gardeners and landscape architects actively work to reintroduce more of the “country” to the city. And with good cause.
Urban agroforestry, combining trees and crops in urban landscapes, can positively affect the environment, culture, and economy.
In a recent publication, researcher John Taylor discussed techniques for creating multifunctional urban agroforestry systems according to people’s needs. The article was published in the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America journal Urban Agriculture & Regional Food Systems.
Taylor says that many urban settings serve a limited function and discourage social contact. He also mentions that they aim to human aspects in designing trees and crops.
Moreover, he couldn’t deny the importance of these spaces for infiltrating stormwater. According to him, they can conserve biodiversity and decrease the impacts of urban heat islands. It happens due to many reasons. For instance, soils and plants have the ability to store carbon, which helps in soil formation and recycling of urban waste.
Ultimately, urban agroforests can assist in closing the nutrient loops between consumers and food-producing sites by reintroducing crop cultivation to metropolitan areas.
To create these urban agroforests, Taylor and co-author Sarah Lovell aim to develop an evidence-based design process. Their initial framework combines urban, landscape architecture, and environmental psychology practices.
They offer fourteen recommendations for creating multipurpose urban agroforests supported by the native culture. The application of these recommendations makes urban agroforests more sustainable. Moreover, they encourage the circular metabolism of the city.
Taylor doesn’t consider his work exhaustive and comprehensive. Instead, he believes in combining relevant disciplines in a continuous dialog on this topic. He also encourages further research on this topic.
Challenges in designing multifunctional urban agroforests:
- Biophysical challenges:
The temperature of cities is higher than in rural areas. It is because of cement and asphalt on roads and buildings. It also blocks rainfall. Besides, the uncovered soils in cities are also of low quality, which affects its benefits for the environment.
- Sociocultural challenges:
Property values are higher in cities than in rural areas. So, it’s possible to anticipate better performance from the land. Sites for urban agroforestry should be economically viable, psychologically stimulating, beautiful, and culturally acceptable. Some areas have all these features and offer excellent educational and recreational opportunities.
Besides these challenges, cities also offer many benefits to urban agroforestry. Taylor believes it’s possible to develop the urban fabric from the urban agroforestry systems.
- They might offer the opportunity for locals to enjoy the healing effects of getting outside regularly.
- These locations have the potential to act as a counterbalance to urban “blandscaping,” the ecological, visual, and biological “sameness” that is still part of developed cities.
Ideas proposed in the Paper:
The current research proposed the following ideas:
- Connect agroforests and waste streams:
Safe wastewater sources, such as greywater or rainfall collected from buildings, can be used to water crops and trees. These sites help in forming compost and hence recycling food wastes. Moreover, it is also best for rehabilitating the urban soils.
- Boost the environmental condition of cities:
Vegetation separates the open spaces. Parks may use swales (small ditches for collecting precipitation) to collect water. Swales can produce a variety of habitats and add visual interest. Community gardens and other small-scale systems have several advantages. For instance, it helps strengthen the relationships between participants and gardeners on an emotional level.
Urban agroforestry is a potent idea that has broad appeal, especially when it takes the form of edible forest gardening. According to Taylor, it may provide various people with new ideas for envisioning urban food systems.
“Cities are full of potential for creating urban agroforests at a wide range of scales,” he says. Moreover, he explains that cities own residential lots, uninteresting public areas, or even empty lots. By leveraging public interest in food forests, urban environments could be transformed to bring social-ecological change. Ultimately, urban agroforests help lessen the ecological impact of cities.
Urban agroforestry has a promising future, but various stakeholders and professionals must work together to advance this agenda. Community people, social and natural scientists, designers, and university outreach will all be a part of this.