Unravelling Urban Agriculture - A Pathway To Resilient Food Systems
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Starting from the notion that there are several flaws in our food system causing severe (socio-) ecological harm - it was noted that the emerging concept of urban agriculture could potentially serve as a useful tool to mitigate these flaws. Being practiced in various forms throughout society (from gardens to capital-intensive vertical farms) – it was therefore argued that different discourses on urban agriculture might be present. Argumentative discourse analysis served as a methodological approach by which preliminary signs of three discourses have been successfully identified, if urban agriculture is to increasingly enter politicised arenas. These discourses are - (1) socio-educational, (2) incremental optimisation and (3) regime changing. All having the common goal of sustainable food systems in mind – the three discourses respectively advocate for a systems-wide change through ecologically centred thinking; a business-driven incremental optimisation of the conventional food regime; and an innovation-driven regime change towards democratisation of the food system. Although envisioned sustainable food system states differed between the discourses – four common issues were identified that might hamper urban agriculture to develop on a larger scale. These issues relate to (1) land and property price, (2) market structure and its effect on producer-consumer interaction, (3) fossil fuel-lock in; and (4) bureaucracy and organisational structures. Being a two-fold analysis, resilience has been operationalized for the abovementioned results to structurally unravel the complex socio-ecological system dynamics upon which urban agriculture touches - e.g. climate change mitigation, preserving biodiversity, how market forces link with poverty, knowledge transfer and changing governance structures. After an extensive discussion, comparisons with literature and synthesis of the results from discourse analysis and resilience - the following conclusions have been drawn. In the eye of resilience-thinking, opposing propositions between discourses can be regarded as potent tools to conjunctionally pave the pathway towards resilient food systems - since they seem to focus upon different resilience-building components of socio-ecological systems. Therefore, focal points matching the respective expertise of the discourses are sketched, by which they can structurally increase food system resilience. Taking into account the methodological limitations, advise is formulated for decision-makers and future research alike to validate and expand on these findings.