Urban agroecology for health and wellbeing

Project objectives


Urban agroecology is emerging as a specific type of urban agriculture, encompassing the social, cultural, ethical and productive approaches typical of ‘peasant’ agroecology (i.e. socially and culturally just and appropriate, and resource-conserving, agricultural and ecological practices), and reflecting on how they translate to an urban environment. Hence urban agroecological practices do not limit themselves to conceive food production as an additional practice in the city, but how they change the normal and often un-resourceful, day-to-day functioning of urban life. They reflect, for example, on how the construction of publicly accessible edible landscapes enable the retention and re-production of knowledge among generations and across cultural and ethnic groups. They also focus on the link between urban food production and the more general urban collective arrangements at the roots of social reproduction (such as access to housing, land and water) and how they can bring forward new ‘common good’ approaches, economies and division of labour.

This research will focus in particular on women in transition to motherhood or with newborn babies (between the onset of pregnancy and the pre-school age): a phase in life where dietary restrictions and breastfeeding are more likely to induce reflections on the link between food and health. The research will investigate the extent to which women’s engagement in resourceful practices such as gardening, foraging, healing gardens and other forms of gaining and retaining medicinal and nutritional knowledge of plants, can impact on their approach to health and wellbeing (ie. eat seasonally, eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, appreciate nutrients-rich wild plants, develop appreciative habits on food, ecology and environments to transmit to children, increase use of food as substitute/prevention of medicinal ailments) potentially triggering behavioural change and impacting on family diet. The project will shed light also on the extent to which these practices rewrite the way food as a matter of social reproduction is handled in women’s life more broadly (who cooks, how is food socialized in the family or across larger network, family approach to nutrition, space of food in the ‘ecology’ of family-work balance), and whether any change introduced in their lives challenge the urban collective arrangements of food more broadly.

Expected Results

Insights in to the relationships between urban agroecology and healthy eating, with a specific focus on new mothers; Evidence base for policy interventions focused on early years diet as a major factor in shaping subsequent health, wellbeing and education attainment of children.