Going green appears to be the hot new trend across the United States. As environmental advocacy groups bring light to the dangers of global warming, more and more Americans are striving to adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles. The city of San Francisco took a bold step last year, banning the use of plastic grocery bags in favor of eco-friendly, reusable pouches. I even recall reading in a trashy celebrity magazine that Jennifer Aniston attempts to shower in a mere three minutes, so as to not waste water.

Yet, even the most successful localized efforts still have a long way to go to rival the immensity of the problem.

This year, for the first time in history, the world’s urban population will exceed its rural one. While mass migration from the countryside has prompted governments worldwide to reevaluate their urban planning schemes, citizens continue to innovate solutions of their own.  In the United States, city dwellers have recently begun creating community gardens as a way to increase “green spaces” and build community, but also as a way to combat increased food costs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that 15 percent of the world’s food comes from urban centers.  Urban gardening reduces both cost and carbon emissions from food transportation, or food miles, the distance produce travels before consumption.

Though urban agriculture has more prevalently existed in developing countries for reasons of economic necessity, it has not been publicly encouraged, or even legal, until recently. Earlier this month, BBC journalist Andrew Luck-Baker traveled to Kampala, Uganda, to examine the first city in sub-Saharan Africa to legalize urban agriculture. Many Ugandan citizens now grow mushrooms and other vegetables in their backyards. Others have purchased chickens and cows so as to provide their communities with meat, milk, and eggs in exchange for steady income.

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In densely populated areas where food is ludicrously expensive, allowing city dwellers to grow their own produce and raise livestock has stimulated trade, assuaged hunger, and promoted self-sufficiency amongst previously struggling Africans.

However, this trend is not without its pitfalls. Without proper infrastructure to control runaway and wandering livestock, city farming can create a significant hassle. Luck-Baker also reports that in Hyderabad, India, officials have found produce cultivated in urban areas is more likely to be contaminated with parasites.

Despite these hazards, urban agriculture has the potential to shield many citizens of developing countries from skyrocketing food prices and chaotic economic downturns. The international community would be wise to experiment further with this trend in order to improve nutrition and promote yet another step toward sustainable cities.

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