On 12th to 13th April RUW went on a city trip to Rotterdam with 26 WUR students. We visited a number of awesome urban agriculture initiatives, each one with its own objective and means of existence, ate at the heartwarming Hotspot Hutspot and got inspired by the enthusiasm and faith of our hosts. Thank you for having us! – by Annika Meuche, Ilsa Phillips & Darja Tretjakova
Day 1: Rotterdam Municipality / Edible Rotterdam (Eetbaar Rotterdam) / DakAkker / Uit je Eigen Stad
After picking up our bicycles we were welcomed at the community centre het Nieuwe Banier for the presentations of Rachna Deenstra (Municipality of Rotterdam) and Paul de Graaf (Eetbaar Rotterdam).
Rotterdam is an interesting case when it comes to urban agriculture. The city has been almost completely destroyed during World War II, and successful recovery required active participation and positive attitude towards the future from the citizens. The city government is thus more involved with its citizens than any other city and is more prepared to take up a challenge or try something innovative when the citizens initiate something. In Rotterdam, many different citizens are engaged in urban agriculture activities, often using low-tech resources. The municipality tries to support these initiatives, not financially, but by giving them space and providing an overall sustainability framework (e.g. city works intensively on circular flows, recycling, biodiversity, climate adaptation). Besides the gardens and small vegetable farms, there are also several famer markets, mainly supported by the increasing interest of consumers in local food. The municipality links these to other areas such as health, education, quality of space, vital regional economy (need for new innovation) and support of regional food council. For example, schools are encouraged to go to the urban farm to teach the kids healthy food choices. The mission is to solve problems in the city first and by doing so contribute to solving of the global environmental problems. It is still difficult to make a living off urban agriculture, so most projects are run by volunteers.
Edible Rotterdam (Eetbaar Rotterdam) is an urban agriculture network that began in 2007 with an expert meeting with entrepreneurs, architects and researchers. The goal is to connect agriculture to the city and to close the food cycle, which is currently not the case. Paul de Graaf explained that there are different types of urban agriculture (e.g. forest gardens, rooftops, hydroponics and aquaponics) that could potentially contribute to urban food production, and each can be used according to the urban environment. There is, however, a lack of investment. It is hard to get private funds to invest in public space. Urban agriculture as a business model can be self-operating, as it is beneficial for health issue, city image and other social issues, but the small scale is often problematic to make the projects economically sustainable. Furthermore, more policies are needed; organizational change should be more directed to reach the benefits of all partners. Labelling the urban produce as organic is difficult, however due to the closeness to the customers it is generally not even needed. Read more