The global population is projected to hit 9.8 billion by the year 2050. Food security is a pressing concern for policymakers. Food supply needs to increase by 70 percent as global food demand is expected to grow by anywhere between 60 percent and 98 percent. New ways of growing food and improving food security are necessary. In this case, farmers need to increase food production either by increasing cultivable land or through adoption of new farming techniques. Erratic weather patterns as a result of climate change are making the situation worse. Droughts are becoming more frequent and more devastating and the threat of food insecurity is becoming more apparent. Crop yield in some regions is expected to decline in the wake of rising global temperatures.
Policymakers need to consider urban farming in the quest to build sustainable cities. Urban farming, which basically means the growing of food in cities or heavily populated towns, is becoming a practical option to supplementing conventional food supplies. Urban farming uses fewer resources to produce more. In the face of dwindling resources such as fresh water and arable land, urban agriculture will play a key role in the sustainability of future cities. Most of the food produced in urban farms has a short production cycle thus ideal for ensuring a consistent supply of healthy foods.
Urban farms take the form of backyards gardens, rooftop gardens, urban fringe gardens or balcony gardening and some municipalities have gone to the extent of ceding part of their urban parks for the purpose of urban farming in order to enhance food supply in their municipalities. Healthy living in urban areas is of chief importance since fast food spots are sprouting on almost every block in cities. Fresh garden produce is key when it comes to supplementing urban diets as consumption of fruits on a daily basis prevents some of the most common chronic ailments such as diabetes.
Most urban farms are very close to open markets, therefore, transportation and refrigeration costs are minimal making urban farms ideal for producing fresh farm produce. Food production in urban areas also generates income for poor urban dwellers. Urban farming can produce food for personal consumption as well as for commercial purposes. The ROI is also higher since urban farms produce more than same sized rural gardens. Transportation of goods to urban areas is reduced when urban farming is embraced. This element of self-sustainability reduces the carbon footprint of these cities. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, therefore, acting as carbon sinks. Land in urban areas that could be otherwise dumping sites is being used to grow food crops. Plants can be selected for their ability to convert toxins into their inert form and absorb them thus removing them from the soil.
Urban farming has to be part of the future of cities. Sustainability has to incorporate food production and in this case healthy options for urban dwellers. The global population is growing rapidly but food production is not matching that growth. Climate change is real and combating its adverse effects implies the use of every available weapon in the arsenal including urban farming.