By Charlotte Litjens
At an urban agriculture summit in Toronto this August, a diverse group of advocates produced the world’s first declaration for integrating food production into the urban environment: the Toronto Declaration. Calling for “good food, green buildings, and great cities growing together,” the declaration not only proclaims the intentions of summit-goers from around the world, but also passionately calls upon city officials and others to join them in action to make agriculture a legitimate part of urban development.
“Too many governments still divide and separate food, water, shelter, health, energy, education, waste, transit, community, and economics,” the declaration reads. The document explained that when cities are developing their infrastructure, they need to engineer more creative space for growing food. By creating space for agriculture within green buildings and urban landscaping, city dwellers will benefit from both an enhanced quality of life and food security. Not only is food produced in urban agriculture-scapes, but these green spaces also provide what economists call “ecosystem services,” which include the absorption of greenhouse gases and support for species like honeybees and other pollinators. The declaration also discusses the potential of urban agriculture to create jobs, educate youth, improve public health, and empower communities.
To promote this “growth industry of the future,” the declaration proposes several action items for cities, which include the following:
- Official food charters, plans and food policy councils;
- Urban agriculture offices within local and regional governments;
- Green roof laws and codes;
- Government support for food-producing buildings and landscapes;
- Scaling-up of nutrient recycling from waste streams;
- Provide food-based curriculum to all youth.
These actions items were developed during the closing plenary session of the Urban Agriculture Summit on August 19 of this year, which welcomed participants from around the world and featured Growing Power’s Will Allen, Nourishing the Planet columnist and urban agriculture expert Wayne Roberts, and Luc Mugeot from The International Development Research Center. The Declaration’s authors include representatives from the meal-providing NGO Foodshare, the Toronto Food Policy Council, Ryerson University, and Roberts.
How can we advance the action plan of the Toronto Declaration in cities around the world? Is it already taking place in some cities?
Charlotte Litjens is a Food and Agriculture Research Intern with The Worldwatch Institute.
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