IIED publishes a series of blog posts on the transition to a predominantly urban world. One of their latest posts deals with food in the urban context during the covid-19 pandemic.
Some 2,500 urban poor families have built a home on the Mae Kha canal, which flows through Chiang Mai city in Thailand. After being threatened by repeated eviction notices, the community formed a network to protect their home. Through this network residents have initiated savings groups, organised canal cleanings and undertook settlement and housing upgrading projects, showing that they are vital for ensuring the health of the canal, which has deteriorated over time and is badly polluted.
COVID-19 meant many residents became out of work and struggled to feed their families as a result. This caused some locals to grow vegetables along the edges of the canal, even though the water is polluted. To improve food access for those in need, an urban farm was proposed and a local architectural firm helped residents locate an area within the community – a piece of government owned land which had been used as a garbage dump for years. A farm was successfully established with the help of local donations of seed, seedlings, gardening tools and organic fertilisers. The urban farm now enables poorer communities to produce their own nourishing food, while engaging the wider community, providing them with a sense of ownership to the urban farm and sharing valuable knowledge around food production.