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Plant Power

When SmartCitiesWorld was launched five years ago, agriculture and food production weren’t identified as being among the vertical sectors which we would cover. After all, our preoccupation was cities and advanced technology. The focus on resilience and sustainability though, especially in the context of climate change, has meant that to tackle many urban challenges, it is impossible to overlook these areas.

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When SmartCitiesWorld was launched five years ago, agriculture and food production weren’t identified as being among the vertical sectors which we would cover. After all, our preoccupation was cities and advanced technology. The focus on resilience and sustainability though, especially in the context of climate change, has meant that to tackle many urban challenges, it is impossible to overlook these areas.

 

This was brought sharply into focus this week with the news that an urban farming project in the municipality of Rosario in Argentina scooped the top prize in the WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities competition. The challenge attracted 262 submissions from 54 countries under the theme of “inclusive cities for a changing climate” and Rosario was awarded $250,000 after being recognised by an independent jury of urban leaders and visionaries.

 

What was initially a response to the country’s economic crisis at the start of the millennium has evolved to become a cornerstone of the city’s climate adaptation and social inclusion strategies. It began back in 2001, with the city launching an urban and peri-urban agriculture programme to supply residents with tools, seeds and training to grow food locally and sustainably. Today, 75 hectares of land are dedicated to agro-ecological production and urban gardens, with another 800 hectares preserved for agriculture in the peri-urban area.

 

Central to the project’s success was not technology but the municipality’s ability to engage and mobilise its citizens. More than 2,400 families have started their own gardens, and seven new permanent market spaces have been created. Shorter, localised food supply chains help the city reduce carbon emissions by producing 2,500 tons of fruits and vegetables each year. Compared to imports, local food production has been shown to reduce emissions by 95 per cent.

 

What struck the jury was the extensive impact across the city on people’s lives. It has improved food security and social inclusion, generated jobs, increased climate resilience and reduced carbon emissions.

Any municipal leader would be happy if their smart city initiative ticked that many boxes. Moreover, the people of Rosario have shown that what we do in our gardens and on our agricultural land, really can impact the quality of urban life and tackle many of the critical challenges cities face.

This week we bade a sad farewell to editor Graeme Neill. I’ll be filling his shoes for the next few weeks before we welcome our new editor, and I look forward to sharing more success stories such as Rosario’s impressive achievements with you

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