Sustainable Urban Agriculture: A Sustainable Adaptation Strategy for the City of Cape Town?

Master Thesis, University of Cape Town

This work explores the narratives associated with the benefits of sustainable urban agriculture areas in terms of adaptation to climate change in the Cape Town Metropolitan Area, South Africa. Urbanization and climate change are stressing urban areas in developing countries. Therefore, finding a development path towards “sustainable adaptation” remains a critical matter for humanity. Adaptation is sustainable only if it takes into consideration climate risks, while maximizing both social justice and environmental integrity. Urban agriculture is defined in this dissertation as the urban and peri-urban locations where agricultural practices, either the production of crops, livestock, or fish, utilize urban resources for the purpose of selling and consuming these goods produced locally, supporting the urban economy and providing a supply of food for urban citizens. Sustainable urban agriculture encompasses urban agricultural areas operating towards the satisfaction of human food, the preservation of environmental resources, the economic viability of agriculture and the enhancement of the quality of life of farmers, farm workers, and society.

This research reviews the practices and views of urban agriculture stakeholders in Cape Town on sustainable urban agriculture to determine if the practices of urban agriculture could be a part of a sustainable adaptation strategy. The methods used to answer this question included a systematic review of studies on urban agriculture worldwide since 1980, and a review of the urban agriculture and adaptation to climate change policies which are implemented at the metropolitan level, all supported and tested through interviews with key informants. Non-Government Organization (NGO)- based community farming initiatives such as Oranjezicht City Farm, Abalimi Bezekhaya or the ERF 81, independent farmers, municipal and provincial government representatives were interviewed. A critical discourse analysis method was utilized to analyze the findings.

The study found that the narratives at the metropolitan level, including the policies and the views of governmental representatives, remains focused on the food security contribution whereas the practitioners’ narrative expressed an interest in the economic opportunities and social benefits that sustainable urban agriculture can bring, as stated by the literature on sustainable urban agriculture. The key practitioners and NGOs narratives suggest that sustainable urban agriculture is contributing to the adaptive capacity of the farmers as they are using practices such as permaculture or organic farming, which allow them to cope with the impacts of climate variability and climate change. If sustainable farming practices were emphasized instead of farming practices towards small-scale, home-based activity to improve households’ food security, the adaptation framework at the municipal and provincial level would be aligned with practitioners and NGOs narratives and would contribute to the sustainable adaptation capacity of the city.

The recent shift within the City of Cape Town towards the broad concept of resilience could bridge the gap between current policy and practices, and informants’ narratives, but it remains too soon for this to be tested. This study concludes suggesting that the analysis of the informants’ and literature’s narratives on sustainable urban agriculture express potential to contribute to climate change adaptation and the reduction of vulnerability in Cape Town but alignment between policy and practitioners’ needs, wants and actions needs to take place.

Anaïs Marie

Download pdf