Luxembourg is working on a national strategy for urban agriculture
Written by BRUNO RENDERS, Director and General Manager of the CDEC, coordinator of the Groof project
The development of our societies undoubtedly involves an increase in urbanisation and demographic pressure. In 2016, according to World Bank data, more than 54% of the world's population was urban, a figure that rises to 75% for the European Union, and this trend will continue to grow. This demographic pressure implies a series of major societal, environmental, technical, economic and social challenges.
One of these challenges lies in mastering the capacity to make quality, sustainable, inclusive accessible food. This is the observation made by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which had already affirmed in 2015 its willingness to diversify and redirect its economy through the process of the Third Industrial Revolution (TIR), based on a collaboration between the American economist Jeremy Rifkin and the country's public and private forces. The field of agriculture has a special place in this process because it is part of innovation models for food production and food security, but also because it is part of the common sense of the circular economy.
It is in this sense that the Luxembourg government has based itself on an objective analysis of food needs, the country's situation in terms of self-sufficiency, technical and administrative preparation and societal acceptance of urban farming (UF) to study the relevance of supporting its development at the national level. This strategic study was conducted in 2019 in a collaborative manner with more than a hundred representatives of public, private, large and small organizations. The results, published on the www.urbanfarming.lu platform, take the form of a series of recommendations to facilitate the development and implementation of UF in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
The observation made is that, as with any innovative concept, local and national regulations do not always seem to be in line with the possibilities of implementation. Although there are obstacles, it is clear that there is a certain administrative flexibility, and this could be reinforced by training and raising the awareness of public players.
An improvement in the country's self-sufficiency could generate development of economic value for the State both through the development of relocated UF activities and by limiting outward financial flows. In this area, the principles of the circular economy could be fruitfully applied. For example, the development of new UF economic models (e.g. based on production technologies that are better integrated in terms of energy, CO2 and other circular resources flows and/or allowing the development of spaces that are currently monofunctional) could contribute to the development of this economic value.
All the more so as it seems that the existing financial framework suggests funding possibilities for this type of project. Moreover, the government has made it a major priority to orient the financial sector towards sustainable and circular finance. Work on an explicit recognition of UF projects as eligible for some form of public subsidy could further facilitate the process for entrepreneurs.
Urban farming is an extremely unifying concept. This is undoubtedly one of the strong lessons of this study. It affects the daily life of citizens as much as it conceals numerous economic and environmental opportunities. Luxembourg sees this strategy as an opportunity to demonstrate that the political will to turn towards desired new models of society can be translated into concrete circular economy projects. To this end, raising the awareness of all stakeholders, a strong transversal communication and the emergence of pilot projects are part of the objective elements to be implemented. Various studies and reflections on potential pilot projects already offer prospects for taking action.