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Open Access Highly Accessed Systematic Review Protocol

What are the impacts of urban agriculture programs on food security in low and middle-income countries?

Ruth Stewart12, Marcel Korth1*, Laurenz Langer1, Shannon Rafferty1, Natalie Rebelo Da Silva1 and Carina van Rooyen1

Author Affiliations

1 CEE Johannesburg, Centre for Anthropological Research, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

2 EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK

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Environmental Evidence 2013, 2:7  doi:10.1186/2047-2382-2-7

Published: 24 April 2013



Issues of food security and nutrition have wide reaching implications for people and their environments, particularly in low and middle-income countries. One proposed solution is urban agriculture, which has been widely upheld as a solution to the food-crisis facing increasingly metropolitan populations. It is believed to provide the urban poor with food and a source of potential income, whilst improving the urban environment and reducing pressure on finite farmland. Although it faded from many development agendas in the 1990’s, urban agriculture has seen a resurgence since a peak in global food prices in the late 2000’s. There are, however, potential disadvantages to this increasing drive for urban agriculture including associated urban health risks and implications for the environment. The usage of waste-water, for example, may contaminate produced food and intensive irrigation might lead to the spread of malaria and water borne diseases, as well as threatening already limited water supplies. Soil erosion and the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides might also present health risks to urban populations and damage the environment. Despite the potential benefits and harms of urban agriculture, the evidence-base is not well understood. Given the current policy drive to promote urban agriculture, there is an urgent need to understand its effects on urban populations and their environments.


This review will seek out, select, appraise and synthesise evidence on the impacts of urban agriculture on food security and nutrition. We will employ systematic review methodology to ensure that our review of the evidence is comprehensive, transparent and replicable. In addition to searching electronic databases, we will examine websites and contact academics, practitioners and policy-makers for relevant research. All potentially relevant literature will be screened against pre-specified criteria and assessed for risk of bias using established critical appraisal tools. This is to ensure that we only include the evidence in which we have confidence. Depending on the nature of the available data, we will then synthesise the available evidence using statistical meta-analysis and/or narrative synthesis. Our findings will be disseminated in a variety of ways to ensure that the evidence is available for policy-makers and practitioners.

Urban agriculture; Food security; Nutrition; Impact; Systematic review; Urbanisation