Cologne Creates a Roadmap for Becoming an ‘Edible City’

An urban food garden in Detroit, MI. Image: Miro Korenha

by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer

The Food Policy Council of Cologne, Germany has “received government support for its project to make Cologne an ‘edible city,’” MOLD Magazine reported. An “edible city” revolves around, as John P. Kazior wrote, “long-term planning to make green spaces more biodiverse, to promote urban agriculture, and foster local food economies to create local ‘green’ jobs.” As Florian Sander, the Coordinator of the Food Policy Council of Cologne told MOLD, “We started four years back with nothing. Now we’ve got way more possibilities for everyone who wants to garden in the city.”

And according to the USDA under President Obama, increasing production and sales of local food in urban areas supports small-scale farmers, can help reduce emissions, and even improve genetic diversity of crops that aren’t able to withstand long journeys to market.

Why This Matters: We have often reported on the promises urban agriculture holds for metropolises around the world, from Detroit to Singapore. But Cologne has gone one step further by institutionalizing legal frameworks which “will make it far easier for citizens to propose projects using urban green spaces for food production.” As the world’s urban population will triple by 2050, it is more important than ever that we figure out ways to feed city dwellers in a healthy and sustainable manner. As Kazior noted, Cologne’s plan could provide a “roadmap” for other cities around the world looking to cultivate their own “local food ecologies.”

Behind Food Policy Councils:
Food policy councils, according to an article in the academic journal Politics and Governance, aim to bring together multiple stakeholders from a wide swath of the population and work to influence and change local food policies. According to scholars, they “can be regarded as concrete examples of a deliberate attempt to develop the practise of local food democracy.”

Food Policy Councils first cropped up in the US in the 1980s, and there are now 341 councils in North America. In Germany, the councils exist in 30 cities, including, of course, Cologne, whose council was founded in 2016. These councils provide “an example of bottom-up democratization dynamics,” and could have a meaningful impact on our food systems at large.

Towards an “Edible City:”
According to Kazior, cities such as Barcelona, San Francisco, Rotterdam, Havana, and more have “explored the idea” of an edible city. But, as MOLD notes, “the project of making a city edible is necessarily quite complex for large cities.” Cologne, in their project to promote the “edible city,” involved “hundreds of local people,” and included workshops, forums, and other opportunities to promote the “exchange of ideas.” Now, their action plan was approved, officially making Cologne “edible.”

MOLD reported on Cologne’s 52-page action plan, which “focuses on issues regarding open urban gardens, the promotion of biodiversity, participatory agriculture projects, gardening in schools, garden space for businesses, and strategies for the promotion of private gardens at home—covering both political and civic goals for the city.” While it remains to be seen how this ambitious action plan will be implemented and work in practice, this does, as Kazior argues, represent a “significant milestone” for urban agriculture, both in Cologne and globally.


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