Investigating the impact and potential of urban agriculture in the UK : observations from an institution-led initiative in Wythenshawe, South Manchester

St. Clair, Rebecca 2017, Investigating the impact and potential of urban agriculture in the UK : observations from an institution-led initiative in Wythenshawe, South Manchester , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Urban Agriculture (UA) has been promoted as an activity with the potential to bring food production closer to the point of consumption, to contribute to urban food security, strengthen community cohesion and to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of those involved. UA is often associated with informal, grassroots action; however more formal initiatives, often organised by large institutions or special interest groups, have become more common in recent years. While proponents cite assumed social benefits of formal UA, there is still much to be explored regarding the way in which the practice is perceived and experienced by its participants. As institution-led urban food projects proliferate across the UK amidst austerity-induced local authority cutbacks, it is important to consider not only how these imposed ventures affect the people they are intended to help, but also to unravel the motives and methods of those who manage the projects.

Real Food Wythenshawe (RFW) is an example of such a project and was awarded £1 million by the Big Lottery to pioneer the practice of UA in Wythenshawe, South Manchester. The project, which is run by staff at Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, seeks to encourage the people of Wythenshawe to grow and cook fresh, healthy, local food and has stimulated the development of several UA activities across the area. This research adopted a case study approach to seek an in-depth appreciation of how participants of two UA sites - a community garden and an urban farm - perceive and interact with growing spaces that have been developed or restored by RFW. It also explored the ambitions of the team who designed the project and the motivations driving its implementation.

Results presented here, show that RFW staff were motivated by a desire to help the local population and to change public perceptions of Wythenshawe, promoting it as a green and pleasant place to live. Growing group members were largely motivated to attend the growing sessions through a desire to help others and to socialise, which can be considered as a type of “Do It Yourself (DIY) citizenship” or “quiet sustainability”, whereby UA participants are not explicitly driven by a desire for radical social change. The resulting impacts experienced by those interviewed at both sites were wide-ranging and included increased growing knowledge leading to home-growing and sharing of produce, increased social confidence, strengthened community bonds, therapy and friendship. Results suggest that volunteers at the urban farm may have had a more rewarding experience if they were afforded a greater sense of autonomy and ownership over the project activities. Similarly, the project may have been able to strengthen relationships with partnering organisations through a decentralisation of control and budget, which may have had the effect of increasing the initiative’s impact and reach. These results are discussed with reference to the growing body of UA literature, and suggestions for future work place the initial findings within the context of the wider research framework.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences
Funders: Real Food Wythenshawe
Depositing User: Rebecca St Clair
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2018 11:42
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 23:37

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