How sustainable have small scale ‘bottom-up’ approaches been in attempting to achieve food security?

Small-scale food production is another way to improve food security. It relies on individuals and local communities rather than on governments or large organisations; this is why it’s known as a ‘bottom-up’ approach. It can help to improve food security as more food is grown (e.g. in gardens and on allotments) so availability increases. People can grow what they want and pick it daily so that it’s fresh; this helps to reduce waste. This type of food production is often organic and non-intensive keeping the soil fertile. People become less reliant on expensive, imported food which helps poorer people to eat more healthily.

Urban gardens Image result for urban gardens

Empty spaces such as disused land, roof tops and balconies are used in towns and cities to grow food. Many of these gardens are community projects where people are working together to grow food and improve their environment. Urban gardens improves the food availability locally, reducing the need to transport food long distances. It’s also fresher, more nutritious and often cheaper which is socially sustainable. Urban gardens also improve the look of urban areas by adding more greenery. It is more environmentally and economically sustainable as urban areas become less dependent on buying food produced by large-scale agriculture.


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It is derived from the term permanent agriculture and refers to the way crops are planted and soils are managed so that they can be used almost indefinitely. It is typically used on a small-scale farm. There are twelve principles which farmers adopt including:

  • use and value diversity
  • catch and store energy
  • use and value renewable resources and services
  • use edges and value the marginal
  • produce no waste
  • use small and slow solutions

For example, farmers will use nitrogen fixing plants rather than fertilisers and they will plant a wide range of crops. It is environmentally sustainable as food is grown in a way that recreates natural ecosystems which protects soil and wildlife. The growing site is low maintenance so food can be grown with less time and effort which improves social sustainability.