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School of Geography

Cities & Social Justice Projects

Urban agriculture, social cohesion and environmental justice. An action-research project to inform responsive policy making

PI: Chiara Tornaghi (University of Leeds)

Overview: This research project aims to investigate emerging forms of Urban Agriculture (UA) in the UK, and their impact on social cohesion and environmental justice.

After having been marginalised for half a century, UA is encountering a great resurgence in popularity in the cities of the Global North. Community groups, social enterprises and guerrilla gardeners are promoting food growing in a wide range of unusual contexts: public space and housing estates, brown fields and rooftops, window sills and parish greens.

Despite being generally portrayed as:

  • benevolent and unproblematic, with the potential to partially solve problems associated with food quality and affordability
  • contribute to reduced ecological footprints
  • increase community cohesion
  • achieve greater community resilience to the economic crisis
  • promote urban sustainability.

UA raises many controversial and potentially unjust dynamics, which lie unexplored.

This research will be the first academic investigation into UA as a social practice in UK, investigating its cultural, social and institutional dimensions and will experiment with a creation of a social platform (a forum) where urban agriculturalists and policy makers can jointly discuss which resources, skills, infrastructural and regulative models are needed to ensure socially and environmentally just urban agricultural practices in the Leeds City Region context.

Start Date: 01 March 2011

End Date: 28 February 2013

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Grant Reference: RES-000-22-4418

Details: www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/RES-000-22-4418/read