Sustainability analysis of urban agriculture in Beijing China

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The agricultural sector is the main stage for producing food worldwide. Historically, agricultural production has managed to satisfy the food demands from a rapidly increasing population. However, the scenario at present is totally reversed. There is an apparent decrease of food supply leaving over 1 billion people hungry. Jiang stated that the International Fund for Agriculture Development projected that the food supply will need to increase by 60% to sustain mankind . The dilemma on food production can be tightly connected with the increasing rate of urbanization. The rapid growth of the world economy and exponential increase in the world population may be considered as some of the reasons for the increasing urban areas. Associated with this change is a large shift of human activities towards the urban areas with significant effects on the agricultural sector. In 2008, the rural population has been exceeded by the urban population for the first time. The world’s urban population as projected by the United Nations will continue to grow by more than a billion people between 2010 and 2025, while the rural population which is viewed to be the agricultural producers, will hardly grow at all. The insignificant growth in rural areas can suggest that the proportion of the global population may not suffice the demands of increasing population not producing food (Satterthwaite et. al. 2809). One way to increase the food availability especially on cities is through urban agriculture as an alternative for conventional agricultural food production in rural areas. This method of food production can be done both in urban and peri-urban areas where it is expected to be integrated into the economic and ecological system (RUAF Foundation par. 1). One of the countries that have enormous population in urban areas is China. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics 2009, the number of urban residents in China had already reached 622 million – a population well over twice the size of the entire U.S. but still just 47% of China’s total (Kwan par.1). Around the many very large and fast-growing cities in China, Beijing is one of the cities wherein intensification of agricultural production is taking place at an accelerated pace (Wolf et. al. 142). In this regard, it is reported that the country will push forward urbanization in an active and stable manner, focusing on gradually transferring farmers qualified for urban household permits into cities (“China expects urbanization rate to be at 51.5% by 2015” par. 2). This opens the opportunity for China to adopt urban agriculture. In fact, Beijing has an increased adoption peri-urban agriculture since 1950’s. The technology proved to sustain some non-staple foods such as milk and vegetables and improved the quality of food available as opposed to quantity in the city (Jianming 40). Despite of the good news that urban agriculture brought to the food supply chain, one must also examine its sustainability. As part of the world’s intensification of agriculture to increase productivity, maximum concern must be placed for the long-term environmental and economic sustainability (Gilis par. 3). It has been defined by Gold (par. 4) of United States Department of Agriculture that sustainability in agriculture involves the long-term integrated system of plant and animal production that will “satisfy human needs, enhance environmental quality and natural resources based on agricultural economy, efficiently use of nonrenewable resources and on-site resources, sustain economic viability and enhance the quality of life of farmers and society as a whole.” This paper aims to analyze the existing urban agriculture and its contribution to the development of the region. The impact of practicing agriculture in urban areas of Beijing, China will be assessed based on the economic, social and environmental aspects as its sustainability

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