The Urban Agriculture Network - Western Pacific. (Covering Australia, New Zealand, Pacifc islands, and South East Asia)
A regional office of The Urban Agriculture Network Inc, based in Washington DC. United States
BACKGROUND ON URBAN AGRICULTURE (UA).
What is UA ?
Urban agriculture (UA) is growing food in urban spaces, especially from urban, organic wastes. It represents an important paradigm shift in food production as both intensive food production techniques and improved urban waste treatment technologies develop in parallel. It means growing food where it is needed, to reduce transport costs considerably and to enhance freshness. It also means taking urban wastes and doing something with them so that the nutrients involved become valuable plant and animal food. The most successful urban agriculture integrates agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, agroforestry and "mini-livestock" husbandry with sound water management and waste management, plus enlightened urban planning, regulation, hygiene and work-place safety.
Urban agriculture was an important part of food production of European cities during the Middle Ages (when armies laid siege to them). It was also a part of food-growing by the Aztecs, the Incas and the Mayans thousands of years ago. Indeed the ancient "chinampa" techniques were far superior to systems of today. However, the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon built about 2,500 years ago probably were humankind's first really serious urban agriculture -- and were certainly the world's first rooftop urban farm. During both world wars in last century, urban agriculture was a big part of food production throughout Europe. Backyard gardens often meant survival.
Backyard gardens in Australia:
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 2.5 million Australian households (about 35%) grow some of their own fruit and vegetables. This is estimated to be about 110,000 tonnes of fruit and about 153,000 tonnes of vegetables a year. About 80,000 Australian households have poultry that produce around 2,000 tonnes of meat and more than 26 million dozen eggs. Other households grow such things as nuts, grapes for wine, small meat animals such as rabbits and quail, plus fin fish and crustaceans. It is an expanding interest as more people develop interest in producing their own food, especially using Permaculture techniques.
Professional urban agriculture:
Professional and sideline urban agriculture is a fast-developing agricultural sector, especially in hydroponic technology in use in urban and periurban areas. This is extending to urban and periurban farms growing fin fish and crustaceans, and to rooftop farming. The Urban Agriculture Network (TUAN) focuses heavily on professionals in these fields, and the expansion of their business and food-production potential in Western Pacific cities. Rooftop farming is a particularly important sector.
In the United States:
The 1980 U.S Census revealed that about 30% of America's food, by value, was produced from urban agriculture. The 1990 Census revealed the total to be moving closer to 40%. This increase indicates both the rise in intensive urban agriculture within city boundaries, plus the encroachment and encirclement of traditional agriculture on urban fringes (Source: Urban Agriculture; Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities published by the United Nations Development Program and written by TUAN networkers.
In other countries:
For many Third World countries urban agriculture has become an important part of the food supply, especially of fruit and vegetables. Different cities have varying figures, but in some underdeveloped countries urban food production is now contributing between 20% to 80% of the local food supply. Developed countries are also advancing. For example, Hong Kong is reported to have about 60% of its food supply produced within urban boundaries.
United Nations concern:
In 1992 the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) decided to support urban agriculture development in the interests of world food security. It helped launch an NGO, The Urban Agriculture Network Inc. (TUAN) At first this organisation focused mainly on Africa, Central America and South America. In 1997 TUAN also focused on Europe and North America. In February 1998 TUAN appointed Geoff Wilson its Executive Officer for the Western Pacific (Australia New Zealand, Pacific Islands and SE Asia). TUAN has about 6,000 networkers , and many contribute case studies to the TUAN urban agriculture library in Washington DC, in the United State. TUAN volunteers wrote the UNDP book "Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities", now being revised.
World Bank support:Western Pacific office:
The Network's international programs of collecting case studies and publishing them, are still supported by UNDP . It now has the support of the World Bank in studying the better use of agricultural wastes in urban areas.
This is still small, but is developing. The main work of the office is:
- Collecting case study information about urban agriculture in the Western Pacific Region.
- Disseminating information via the its Knowledge Publisher site on the Internet (to be launched March 1, 2001).
- Promoting study tours, conferences and seminars within the Western Pacific Region.
- Encouraging research and development of urban agriculture; fostering government support and understanding of urban agriculture, and helping career development of urban agriculture professionals.
The Urban Agriculture Network - Western Pacific no longer operates as a membership organisation, due to the burdensome nature of Australian taxation laws. Voluntary time is provided for projects or help to individuals or organisations where this can be spared by the honorary executive officer (Geoff Wilson).
Problems UA can help solve:
- Advisory help for a rooftop urban microfarm in Mt Gravatt Central, Queensland, Australia, in which food wastes from nearby restaurants will be used in organic hydroponics, via vermiculture, so that both salad vegetables and fin fish can be sold back to the restaurants supplyin the food wastes..
- Participating in talks, lectures, seminars and conferences on urban agriculture aimed at interesting muncipal , state and federal authorities in urban agriculture.
- Annual Urban Agriculture Awards for Significant Achievement.
Urban agriculture can help solve the horrendous problems predicted to lie ahead as a result of:
- Massive land degradation around the world .
- Massive over-fishing of rivers, lakes and oceans.
- Greenhouse gas emissions.
- Continuation of population pressures that lead to reduction in periurban agriculture.
- High financial and pollution costs of post-harvest treatment and transport of food in traditional agribusiness systems.
The United Nations predicts that the world will be 85% urban-based within a generation or so - compared with about 45% at present. This will take a great deal of agricultural land out of production as houses, industry and roads continue to sprawl across periurban (city fringe) landscapes.
The Microfarm Group, Southside Chamber of Commerce.
The Microfarm Group of the Southside Chamber of Commerce Inc is a Brisbane-based group interested in the broad spectrum of microfarming technologies, and business development associated with them. The group's first project was a feasibility study ( completed in May, 1999) of urban rooftop microfarming in Mt Gravatt Central, a suburban shopping centre on the southside of the city of Brisbane, the capital of the Australian state of Queensland. The $20,000 feasibility study was a chamber project supported by the Greater Brisbane Area Consultative Committee of the Australian Federal Government's Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business.
The feasibility study revealed that an investment of about $212,000 on around 1,000 square metres of space, could provide about 20%pa return after paying the wages of three to four employees (including a manager), using the food wastes of local restaurants as the basis of an inorganic hydroponic nutrient for growing salad vegetables, and providing food for native fish -- both of which could be sold back to the same restaurants. A pilot project is now planned to prove the feasibility study, and to develop training and operational manuals.
The Chamber's Microfarm Group comprises both previous members of the Microfarm Association Inc. and members of the Southside Chamber of Commerce. Convenor and chairman of the group is Geoff Wilson and, as a result, is affiliated with The Urban Agriculture Network - Western Pacific Office.Cost of Southside Chamber membership (inclusive of GST) of the Southside Chamber of Commerce is:
- $45 joining fee.
- Annual full membership fee $99 a year.
- Additional (associate) members $35 a year.
Write to The Treasurer, Southside Chamber of Commerce, 29 Smith St., Holland Park, Queensland 4121, Australia.
Members of the Microfarm Group receive copies of the six times a year "Urban Agriculture & Microfarming" magazine, and can participate in activities of The Urban Agriculture Network-Western Pacific.
FURTHER INFORMATION FROM:Geoff Wilson (executive officer) and Mary Wilson (admin. officer),
The Urban Agriculture Network - Western Pacific,
359 Broadwater Rd.,
Phone: 61 7 3349 1422; Fax: 61 7 3343 8287.
Mobiles: 0412 622 779 (Geoff); or 0412 422 779 (Mary).
(E-MAIL CONTACT PREFERRED).
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