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Editorial

Abstract
By : Vikram Bhatt and Leila Marie Farah

 
DESIGNING EDIBLE LANDSCAPES
The Millennium Development Goals and Agenda 21 objectives have generated international research initiatives in the emerging field of urban agriculture (UA); these efforts in productive growing and food production in the urban domain are gaining pre-eminence. UA was first coined in the 80s by agro-economists who recognized informal gardening practices in southern cities (Ba et all), but it no longer is uniquely associated to the South. UA includes a broad rage of activities: the cultivation of plants, medicinal and aromatic herbs, fruit trees, and the raising of animals, poultry and fish to support the household economy, the site's ecology, as well as social and cultural activities. Thus, UA cuts across multiple disciplines - such as development, urban geography, food security, city planning, landscape architecture, urban design, housing, farming and agronomy - all of which are touched upon by the academic and professional contributors in this special issue of Open House International. In 2005, following the UN Habitat JAM, UA was identified for the first time as a main area for action. Subsequently, it was recognised as a key descriptor for the UN-HABITAT World Urban Forum III held in Vancouver in June 2006, where several of this special issue's contributors presented their work. Since then, interest in UA has grown immensely, especially given it elicits local responses and strategies to two of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century: sustainability of cities and climate change. Studies on the provisioning of cities have highlighted the significance of UA in supplying local markets, in contributing positively to the local economies, in improving the environmental wellbeing of its citizens, and in enhancing the quality of the food consumed. In the context of developing countries, one of the most dramatic economic data is related to the proportion of income city dwellers spend on food. The following table points out the urge to identify more cost-effective sources of food and suggests that, as a household supplement, UA can counteract the worst effect of poverty (Redwood, 2009: 6). City Income spent on food (%) Bangkok (Thailand) 60 La Florida (Chile) 50 Nairobi (Kenya) 40-60 Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) 85 Kinshasa (Congo) 60 Bamako (Mali) 32-64 Urban USA 9-15 Table 1. Percentage of income spent on food by low-income residents in selected cities Source: Akinbamijo et al (2002) Urban and peri-urban food production provides nourishment for cities as culturally and geographically varied as Havana, Cuba, with a daily average yield of 150 to 300g of herbs and vegetables per person; Shanghai, China, where UA supplies the city with 60% of its vegetables and 90% of its eggs; and Brazzaville, Congo, where a quarter of the city's households yield 80% of the leafy vegetables consumed by the urban population (Mougeot, 2005: 6). This phenomenon is not limited to the cities of the south. The Ile-de-France, one of France's most vibrant regions with Paris at its centre, is home to close to 12 million inhabitants out of the country's total 63 million. This region measures just 2% of the total area of the country, hence, given its dense concentration of population and elevated level of urbanization, one could reasonably assume that the agricultural activities of such a region might be marginal. Yet, it may come as a surprise to many that, on the contrary they are thriving: 45% of the Ile-de-France's land is under agricultural use.1 Nationally, in terms of quantity of production, the Ile-de-France ranked 1st in the production of watercress, 2nd in the production of decorative flowers like gladioli, tulips, lily of the valley, 3rd for salads, carnations, and roses' production, and 13th in the production of wheat much sought after by local bakers (Les chambres d'agriculture d'Ile-de-France). Although modern cities are often perceived as centers of food consumption and rural areas as production areas, an increasing interest in growing and consuming local food is spreading, especially in the context of the current (2008-2009) economic crisis. A symbolic example is United States' First Lady Michelle Obama's decision in March 2009 to grow an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House - the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden in World War II (Burros, 2009: A1). Albeit highlighted by the social and economic effects of economic and demo-

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