According to Dr. Nguyen Dang Nghia from the Research Center for Southern Soils, Fertilizers and Environment (RCSSFE), urban agriculture includes the use of small areas, vacant lots, gardens, lawns, balconies, rooftops and upper patios to plant trees or breed small livestock for self-consumption or for sale at neighborhood markets. Peri-urban agriculture refers to agricultural units located near to urban areas that have adopted the intensive production of vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, and milk for the intention of commercializing whole or a part of their production.
Experience in countries developing urban agriculture shows that urban and peri-urban agricultural development can contribute to ensuring fresh food supplies for local people and help poor consumers gain direct access to cheap food from the producers and from nearby markets. Urban and peri-urban small producers can also live off their own produce and sell the remainder to nearby markets to increase their incomes. Urban and peri-urban agricultural products are fresher and less damaged due to the shorter transportation distances. In addition, with advanced farming methods such as hydroponics and potting mix, urban and peri-urban agricultural products can generate high nutritional value.
Urban and peri-urban agriculture will also create more jobs for urban residents. It is estimated that there are about 0.8 billion people around the world earning a living via urban and peri-urban agriculture. In addition, these types of agriculture offer them opportunities to link up with small-scale processing enterprises to produce high-end high-nutritional exportable foods.
Urban and peri-urban agriculture is increasingly common in major cities around the world. In Moscow (Russia), 65 percent of urban families have adopted these agricultural types; in Berlin (Germany), there are 8,000 vegetable gardens in urban areas; in New York (US), thousands of urban residents are planting vegetables on their terraces; in major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, urban residents are providing 85 percent of the local demand for vegetables and 50 percent for meat and eggs; and in Havana, the capital of Cuba, urban residents meet 90 percent of fresh food needs themselves.
In Vietnam, urban and peri-urban agriculture is spontaneously developing in big cities such as Hanoi, Haiphong, Hue, Danang, Dalat, Bien Hoa, Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, and Vung Tau. For example, Dalat is focusing on flowers, ornamental plants, and tropical vegetables, while Ho Chi Minh City is mainly focusing on vegetables, flowers, ornamental plants, dairy, pigs, chickens, and turtles.
Vietnam’s urban agriculture is however backward and mainly driven by old-farming practices without specific directions for the development and the development of local agricultural potential. The country’s big cities have so far only paid attention to the development of industrial production, services, agriculture, and trade and made little of agricultural development. Vietnam also lacks a master plan for urban agriculture.
Vietnam’s ongoing and rapid urbanization process means there is a growing concern over urban agriculture development, as it is seen as an ideal way to address high quality food needs.
Dr. Nguyen Dang Nghia proposed to develop high-tech centers specializing in producing varieties promoting the use of high-value profitable plants and livestock for intensive production. Cities should develop vegetable growing models on the basis of applying the new advanced hydroponic technology.
Urban agriculture will not only provide more food options for the urban population but also create more urban green spaces and improve the urban environment./.
By Ngoc Long