Urban Agriculture as an Integrative Factor of Climate-Optimised Urban Development, Casablanca / Morocco
Research Project Precedent Study
Written by Alice Podner
Urban Agriculture Casablanca is a German-Moroccan research project of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the megacity research programme “Research for the Sustainable Development of Megacities of Tomorrow, Focus: Energy- and climate-efficient structures in urban growth centres”.
The project analyses to what extent Urban Agriculture can make a relevant contribution to climate-optimised and sustainable urban development as an integrative factor in urban growth centres. Urban Agriculture is understood as every form of informal or formal agricultural production within the urban region.
Urban Agriculture in today’s urban growth centres leads to new hybrid and climate-sensitive forms between rural and urban space. The mechanisms of land utilisation and land utilisation distribution as influenced by informal developments are key factors affecting these urban-rural linkages.
The Casablanca project Urban Agriculture as an Integrative Factor of Climate-Optimised Urban Development is not an alternative model of the city or a utopia. The project is also not concerned with the design of a completely new city and the landscape surrounding it. Instead, the project addresses the question of how a new green infrastructure can be integrated into an existing and at the same time dynamically expanding city.
Urban agriculture as an integrative factor of urban development is used as an example of thinking about a broader approach to open space systems in the sense of multifunctional urban landscapes that react to the specific challenges of the megacities of tomorrow.
The Casablanca project concerns itself with the question of Urban Agriculture as an integrated factor in climate-optimised urban development and the search for an open-space system that is adapted to the challenges confronting today’s cities.
How can urban agriculture be systematically developed into a new green infrastructure in cities?
The basic approach of the UAC- project is that a viable response to the changed spatial patterns and spatial sprawl in urban growth centers could be the concept of an urban-regional open-space structure based on Urban Agriculture matched by a conscious integration, in terms of urban development planning, of urban-rural linkages in a poly-central city.
The four central questions that were formulated to steer the research in the second stage were:
- To what extent can Urban Agriculture play a significant role in adapting to the consequences of climate change, in climate protection, and in energy efficiency, which represent amongst Morocco’s greatest economic and ecological challenges? - To what extent is Urban Agriculture an innovative strategy for the sustainable land conservation of urban open space? - to what extent can Urban Agriculture contribute to the struggle against poverty? - How can Urban Agriculture be integrated as a vital element of urban development in accordance with local conditions?
Four topic areas were defined for the organisation of the working process that were to be studied in-depth, within each of which subsidiary questions were to be examined. They are: • urban development • agriculture • climate change • governance and technical support
The project, therefore, has a urban scale at level of intervention, but the effect of the agricultural patch are going to influence the regional system of urban planning.
Based on the categorisation of Urban Agriculture, four pilot projects have been identified on the bi-national workshop in February 2007.
Pilot Project 1: Urban Agriculture + Industry
The idea of the project is that treated wastewater from industrial sites be either used for neighbouring agricultural or for production purposes within the industrial site (closed water loops).
Pilot Project 2: Urban Agriculture + Informal Settlement
The goal of the pilot project 2 is a dovetailing of agriculture with settlement areas in order to improve the resulting synergies in periurban areas and to steer its development.
Pilot Project 3: Urban Agriculture + Peri-urban Tourism
The pilot project in the Oued el Maleh valley is located 20 km north-east of Casablanca. It is characterised by small-scale farming and is a popular destination for city dwellers. the pilot project strives for a symbiosis between the needs and potentials of the city dwellers and the inhabitants of the valley.
Pilot Project 4: Urban Agriculture + Healthy Food Production
The pilot project entitled “Urban Agriculture and Healthy Food Production” aims at developing a modern organic food production on the site of the agro- ecological pedagogical Farm of Dar Bouazza. The organic products, which would be singled out through a local quality label, will enable the creation of direct and fair relations between the producers and the consumers involved in supporting the proximity (within reach) production
Helpful synergies and win-win situations between the city and agriculture regarding food production, wastewater- and flood management, and leisure can be developed. Agriculture could thus be understood as a constructive urban element.
In order to contribute to sustainable and climate-optimised urban development an open-space system should be as multifunctional as possible. To do so, the Casablanca concept of urban agriculture encompasses a number of different subsidiary concepts.
Urban agriculture: - should contribute to the supply of urban food, - should provide recreational and leisure opportunities, - should contribute to resource efficiency and urban recycling management, - should contribute to ecosystem services, - should integrate residential space functions - should be beautiful.
A spatial model for the systematic integration of forms of agricultural use in urban development as a new category for the creation of rural-urban linkages was drawn up at the macro level of the urban region. This model is based on various factors, including analyses of existing settlement and agricultural structures, settlement history, natural spatial elements, and the quality of the soil for agriculture.
In addition, these analyses were superimposed over development plans for the urban region (SDAU, Plan Vert, SOFA). The spatial model distinguishes between nine different categories of multifunctional spatial systems. The categories range from inner-city micro areas and districts to expansive areas of intense production on the urban periphery.
Thinking in terms of a future integration and transformation of agriculture in the city, a new green urban infrastructure is being created, which is – contrary to a traditional green infrastructure like parks – inhabited. Here, the perspective of the inquiry is directed towards the transformation of agricultural areas into living space. It implies that some of a megacity’s inhabitants live and work in a rural sphere within the urban area. The previous rural form of living therefore becomes an integrated factor in urban development, generating “the rurban” as a new urban milieu (with specifi c spatial, functional, economic, and social interconnections) and – perhaps – the “rurbanite” as a new form of living. In this sense, qualifying rural-urban linkages within the urban region will create new forms of coexistence and allow for new synergies, values, living strategies, and spatial structures to emerge over the long term.
Challenges and Opportunities
Like many sustainable initiatives the challenge is implementing and funding the unseen and less glamorous aspects of design; to not cut corners in the framework that underpins the long-term success of such ambitious goals.
The opportunity for cities to be more connected to nature and productive through energy harvesting and urban agriculture has wide reaching benefits for the health and well being of both environment and the community.