Urban agriculture in China: why is it necessary?

In this post I will try to bring you a little bit closer to the reality, goals and why the development in recent years of Urban Agriculture in China, introducing also some of the types of projects that are being carried out in this country.

Why is Urban Agriculture so important in China?

With almost 1.4 billion inhabitants, China is the most populated country in the world (20% of the world’s population resides in China alone). For most of its history it has been predominantly a rural versus urban society, but in recent years there has been a massive exodus from the countryside to the cities.

Since 2011 the number of people living in cities exceeds the number of those living in the countryside, with cities as populous as Shanghai (almost 24 million people) or Beijing (approximately 20 million). But the overpopulation of cities has only just begun, and it is predicted that in the next 15 years there will be 350 million more people living in cities.

As you can imagine, city infrastructures must be prepared for the arrival of millions of people, and this is a major challenge. But, if we look beyond that, it is not only space that is a problem… Will it be possible to feed so many people?

Even if we think that it will be possible to produce food for everyone, there is another question: if most of the crops are in the countryside or rural areas far from the cities … how much more pollution will there be if millions of tons of food have to be transported daily? I prefer not to imagine the truth …

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Pollution in the cities of China is the biggest public health problem… To give you an idea I leave a couple of pictures I have taken from my window a polluted day and a day without pollution. 

Urban agriculture in China: why is it necessary?

Although the first photo may look like a cloudy or foggy day… believe me… it is not! These are two photos taken at the same time and from the same place. The atmosphere here is very dry and when there is no wind for several days or it doesn’t rain (and here it doesn’t rain too much…) a cloud of pollution invades the cities and the air becomes dark, heavy… for me almost unbreathable, to be honest.

Therefore, in addition to the multiple benefits of Urban Agriculture, in cities like Beijing the inclusion of gardens and green spaces is very interesting because it can help alleviate the problem of pollution: first because more food would be produced and closer to consumers, thus reducing the carbon footprint and pollution from transportation; and second because vegetation helps to renew the air and mitigate the effects of pollution. 

The government, the scientific community and other institutions in this country have been aware of this for years and, as a result, more and more policies and projects are promoting Urban Agriculture in China.

Urban Agriculture in China at a glance

There are several types of urban agriculture in China:

Those that are promoted by the government: “agro-parks”, environmental training centers, gardens in schools or training centers….

Those initiated by organizations or groups. They are usually groups of people interested in urban agriculture as a leisure alternative or concerned about health and food quality. These spaces are something like the community gardens we have in Spain.

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Those initiated by private companies or individuals. An example of this is the Qixin Ecological Garden (in the city of Tianjin) that I talked about in the post of the link, or many other farms or periurban gardens that farmers also use as a tourist attraction.

Urban agriculture in China: why is it necessary?
Photographing a small vegetable garden in planters in one of Beijing’s “Hutongs”.

Those spaces (courtyards, rooftops…) where ordinary people grow aromatic herbs, vegetables, greens or other foods for home consumption. Like the small “vegetable gardens in pots” that we have seen in the “Hutongs”, a very picturesque neighborhoods of Beijing.

Surely there are many more, this is only a first approximation of what is Urban Agriculture in China.

As the post would be very long, if you like I will leave for the next one some examples of these types of projects and green spaces where they are grown in the cities of China. You can see it in this link: Urban gardening in China: much more than gardens. 


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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